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Hyundai Group gets permission to go North

Nov 16,2018
Hyundai Group earned approval from the Ministry of Unification to hold a ceremony to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the launch of tours to Mount Kumgang, a resort mountain in North Korea, it said Thursday.

The South Korean company has been preparing for the two-day event beginning on Sunday with the North’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (Kappc).

The approval from the Unification Ministry completes the final step in preparations to celebrate the anniversary at the mountain in North Korea.

About 100 South Koreans will participate in the event - 30 employees from Hyundai Group and 70 invited guests including politicians, representatives from private corporations, tourism organizations and Buddhist groups.

The 30 employees from Hyundai include Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun as well as newly named Hyundai Asan CEO Bae Kook-hwan and Hyundai Elevator CEO Bob Jang.

From the North, 80 officials related to the tour program will take part.

“We hope tours to Mount Kumgang, which used to be a symbol of reconciliation between the two Koreas, can be normalized soon, with this ceremony acting as a stepping stone,” a spokesperson from Hyundai Group said.

After tours began in November 1998, nearly two million tourists have visited the resort mountain, according to the group known for its inter-Korean business arm Hyundai Asan.

South Korea, however, stopped the tours after the fatal shooting of a South Korean female tourist by a North Korean soldier in 2008, which has yet to be explained.

Hyundai had to withstand a 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion) loss in sales and over 220 billion won loss in operating profit due to the suspended tours, but continued to prepare for a day when inter-Korean businesses could resume, according to the company.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]