Pyongyang says won’t authorize Hyundai Group chairman visit

Seoul, July 1 (EFE).- North Korea said Saturday that it had no intention of reviewing a bid by Hyundai Group chairman Hyun Jeong-un to visit an iconic mountain in the country to mark her late husband’s death anniversary.

“According to south Korean media, the side of the chairperson of the Hyundai Group submitted to the puppet authorities a plan to visit the area of the DPRK side as regards the issue of Mt. Kumgang tourist area,” North Korea’s Foreign Minister Kim Song Il said in a statement published by state news agency KCNA on Saturday.

“We make it clear that we have neither been informed about any south Korean personage’s willingness for visit nor known about it and that we have no intention to examine it,” he added.

Kim said that the government’s policy was to not allow any South Korean into the country and noted that since Mt. Kumgang tourist area was part of North Korea’s territory, no external authority could allow entry.

“Such principle and policy are unchangeable and will be maintained in the future, too,” the North Korean official added.

The chairman of the South Korean conglomerate wants to travel to the iconic mountain to mark on Aug. 4 the 20th death anniversary of her husband, Chung Mong-hun, son of Hyundai Group founder, Chung Yu-jung.

To this end, Hyundai Group officials submitted a request to Seoul’s unification ministry this week to seek contact with officials at North’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Since the two Koreas are still technically at war, any South Korean citizen who wishes to visit the North must request permission from the Seoul government, which then decides whether or not to grant it based on security criteria.

Chung Yu-jung was born in what is now North Korea and worked to normalize ties between the two neighbors.

He won rights to operate businesses geared toward tourists from the South on Mount Kumgang, operations that were suspended in 2008 after a visitor was shot dead by North Korean soldiers.

His son led the operations on Mount Kumgang, a place that has been linked to the Chung family and where ceremonies have previously been held to commemorate the death of Chung Mong-hun, the last one in 2018, on the 15th anniversary of his death.

North Korea’s message on plans for this year’s visit comes just a day after the request was formalized was largely predictable given that the country has kept its borders tightly closed since the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020.

For the past three years, Pyongyang has only kept the border crossing between Sinuiju in the northwest and the Chinese city of Dandong open for the exclusive transport of goods, and has recently opened another crossing between Musan in the northeast and Nanping for the same purpose.

The new Chinese ambassador to North Korea, Wang Yajun, is the only person known to have been able to enter the country since the lockdown.

North Korea has also prevented its own diplomats and overseas workers from returning since it imposed the strict border policy. EFE


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