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Hyundai requests permission to visit North

July 04,2017
Hyundai Group is planning to ask the government to give permission for its senior management to visit North Korea next month to mark the anniversary of the death of its former chairman, company officials said Monday.

The memorial service for Chung Mong-hun, who spearheaded the now-suspended inter-Korean tour program in the North, has been held at Mount Kumgang every year since his death in August 2003. Hyundai, however, did not seek approval for the visit last year due to rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

“We are planning to seek approval for the visit this month ahead of the 14th anniversary of Chung’s death on Aug. 4,” a Hyundai official said. “We are expecting positive results considering the new administration’s desire to improve inter-Korean ties.”

The Moon Jae-in administration has approved all requests for civilian inter-Korean exchanges so far, though they were all denied by the North.

Eyes are on whether the visit, if approved, could lead to the resumption of the inter-Korean tour program at the scenic mountain resort on North Korea’s east coast, which kicked off in 1998.

The program was a symbol of the two Koreas’ reconciliation until it was suspended by Seoul following the fatal shooting of a female tourist by a North Korean soldier in July 2008.

Hyun Jeong-eun, chairwoman of Hyundai Group, has visited North Korea on a regular basis even after the tour program was suspended. She has been to the North six times since 2009 for the memorial services and other business-related issues.

It is not known whether Hyun is planning to visit for this year’s memorial service.

“The civilian exchange is expected to be approved if it meets all necessary conditions,” a government official said. “Still, it is hard to say at this point whether North Korea will accept Hyundai’s request.”


BY PARK EUN-JEE, YONHAP [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]