ETN: Is North Korea on track to become the next Communist country to emerge from its troubles to tourism? A company based in South Korea has announced plans to turn North Korea's east coast into a major tourist destination.
Hyundai Asan, the South Korean operator of privatized tours in North Korea, has announced its plans to spend US$3 billion by 2025 to develop its tourism complexes in the North's east coast into a major tourist destination.
The company said it plans to develop the coastal area from North Korea's eastern port city of Wonsan to Haegeumgang, near Mount Geumgang, where it has built a mountain resort.
Mt. Geumgang, divided into three parts--Naegeumgang (inner, western part), Oegeumgang (outer, eastern part) and Haegeumgang (seashore), has long held a spiritual allure for Koreans and will now be accessible daily starting this summer season, instead of three times a week in the past.
Located just north of the border between the two Korea's east coast, the complex has attracted 1.5 million visitors since 1998, up to now mostly consisting of South Koreans. Official records show 8,000 other visitors came from 48 countries.
"This year we are targeting 400,000 visitors," said Yoon Man-joon, CEO of Hyundai Asan.
"We are expecting a large number of visitors to go camping at the resort complex since inter-Korean ties are good,” he added. "Since campers are not allowed to cook due to environmental and safety reasons, they can have their meals at the hotels and restaurants."
Part of Hyundai Asan's marketing strategy is to develop new tour programs to the other side of the mountain, in addition to water sports activities.
The company said it is expecting increased tourist arrivals following restoration of the railway services linking South Korea to the north. "First they came by ship, then by road and now by train," remarked a tourist guide from the North. "We hope South Koreans will come to experience a taste of the future, undivided Korea."
North Korea has also opened a new hiking trail at the Diamond Mountain resort, run by South Korea's Hyundai, in a further proof of its openness to the world.
Hyundai is now waiting for approval from North Korea's environmental experts, expected to be confirmed by September, said the CEO for the South Korea-based group.