|March 16, 2001||atimes.com|
|The Koreas |
Pyongyang to open former capital to tourists
SEOUL - The North Korean government has agreed to designate the city of Kaesong as a special tourism zone, giving rise to the hope that South Koreans will be able to visit the medieval capital of the Koryo Dynasty in September once transportation lines are complete, South Korean Culture and Tourism Minister Kim Han-gill has revealed.
Informed sources said the two governments have narrowed differences about opening Kaesong as the second tourist destination available for South Koreans in the North after scenic Mount Kumgang. South Koreans can also visit Mount Baektu, the highest mountain in Korea, but only from the side that falls within Chinese territory.
Industry sources predict that Hyundai Asan, which currently operates the Mount Kumgang tourism project, will most likely be given the right to operate the Kaesong tourism project.
Less than two hours from Seoul by train or bus, Kaesong has a far larger potential for tourism than Mount Kumgang, which can only be reached by ship from ports on the east coast. Millions of South Koreans who were originally from the North still have relatives there.
Many expatriated North Koreans long to see their families' hometowns, and to visit the burial sites of their ancestors. At present, Imjingak, a pavilion located just south of the border, is the farthest north they could go, but many are expected to seize the opportunity to get closer to their native soil once Kaesong is open.
In addition, Kaesong should draw many regular tourists interested in its cultural heritage. "We've already finished the field study of major relics from the Koryo Dynasty, and it will not take much time for us to lay a course for South Korean tourists," a Hyundai Asan spokesman said.
He added that North Korea had told Hyundai Asan, which has pursued the Kaesong tourism project since last August, that it will proceed with the Kaesong tourism project as soon as the reconnection of the severed Kyongui Railway is finished.
The spokesman said Hyundai will likely launch a one-day tour program at the initial stage before establishing lodging facilities in Kaesong for extended tour programs later. Hyundai Asan officials said that Hyundai, which has been suffering major losses from the Mount Kumgang project, was not in a position to charge entrance fees as is required for Mount Kumgang.
Kaesong has a variety of relics from the Koryo Dynasty which lasted from 918 to 1392. Among them are Manwoldae, the site of the royal palace, Sungkyunkwan, the national college for Confucian students, tombs for Koryo kings and Sonjookkyo, the bridge where Chung Mong-joo, a high-ranking official in the Koryo Dynasty, was killed after refusing to join the forces of General Yi Song-kye, founder of Choson Dynasty, who turned his army from a campaign against Ming China and captured the capital.
Kaesong is also famous for medieval private schools, castles and temples and the Pakyon Waterfall, Songak Mountain, ginseng and peaches.
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