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Mt. Geumgang Tours: The Money Flow Continues to NK

October 19th, 2006 . by Gerry-Bevers

The above cartoon shows President Bush and Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice blocking the path of two South Korean hikers at Mount Geumgang in North Korea. Bush is holding a sign that reads,”No Mt. Geumgang Tours.” One of the Korean hikers says, “If we continue, are you also going to put sanctions on South Korea, too? We sent troops (to Iraq)….”  (The Hankyoreh, Oct. 19)

The above cartoon shows that South Koreans expected visiting Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice to demand that South Korea end its Mount Geumgang Tourism project with North Korea as part of the sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear bomb test; however, according to news reports, Secretary Rice did not make any such demand. In fact, Rice said the following:

“I did not come to South Korea nor do I go anyplace else to try to dictate to governments what they ought to do….”

The above comment seems to have been made in response to rumors that she had come to Korea to demand that South Korea end investment projects in North Korea, especially its Mount Geumgang Tourism project.  The Koreans probably got that idea from an interview with Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who commented on the project two days prior to Rice’s visit. Here is an excerpt from a Chosun Ilbo article, “U.S. Takes Issue With Inter-Korean Projects,” which talks about Hill’s remarks:

U.S. officials have become more forthright about Seoul’s engagement policy with Pyongyang. Washington’s chief negotiator in six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program Christopher Hill said during a visit to Seoul on Tuesday that package tours to Mt. Kumgang seem “to be designed to give money to the North Korean authorities.” He said the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex “is designed to make a long-term investment in human capital” while the Mt.Kumgang project “seems to be designed to give money to the North Korean authorities. So I have my view that they are very two different kind of projects,” he said. “So I understand Kaesong in the context of a reform element. With the other project, I don’t understand it as much.”

According to the Chosun Ilbo article, Hill stressed that his views were “personal views,” but some seemed to think they reflected Washington’s official position since Hill was in Korea to “coordinate opinions” before Secretary Rice’s visit.

It has been reported that 40,000 South Koreans visit Mount Geumgang every month, paying about $1 million to North Korea in admission fees. Supposedly $451 million in admission fees have been paid to North Korea since the project began in 1998. That is in addition to the $942 million that was paid to North Korea for the exclusive right to conduct the tours. That is money that either directly or indirectly helped finance North Korea’s nuclear arms development program. That is why many people think the tours should stop, especially since North Korea’s nuclear bomb explosion. The Roh administration and Korea’s ruling “Uri” party, however, do not want the tours to stop, and it looks like they are not going to.

The Korean government is talking about making cosmetic changes to the tourism project, but they want it to continue. For example, the government is talking about ending government subsidies that encourage people to travel to Mount Geumgang, but those subsidies only amounted to about $3 million dollars in 2004. Such a small reduction will hardly slow the tours or the money going to North Korea, which suggests that the Korean government is not really worried about North Korea’s nukes.

What the South Korean government seems to be worried about is how much she needs to do to give the impression she is worried about North Korea’s nukes by satisfying the minimum requirements of the sanctions resolution without actually doing anything that would upset North Korea. Does that make sense? In other words, South Korea is worried about offending North Korea, even though the world has already condemned her actions and even though she has violated the nuclear non-proliferation agreement between North and South Korea by exploding a nuclear device.

Anyway, no fiinal decision has been made on what South Korea will do, and none is expected until next week. Though Secretary Rice did not tell South Korea what to do, she seems to have left Korea with the message, “Let your conscience decide.” I guess we will find out next week if South Korea has a guilty conscience or not. I am betting “NOT.”

16 Responses to “Mt. Geumgang Tours: The Money Flow Continues to NK”

  1. comment number 1 by: empraptor

    You really don’t need to consider the nukes. Aren’t they still at war against each other? Shouldn’t be doing business. First order of business should have been negotiating treaty rather than tourism.

    Though at this point, cutting source of funds to NK is going to do what… weaken Kim’s grip on NK and raise probability of successful coup d’etat? Or weaken their military for later defeat to US or China? Either way, Kim isn’t going to give up on nukes. It helps keep him in power. If anything, won’t limited funds make him spend more resources on WMD’s – assuming WMD’s are more cost-effective than conventional weapons as deterrent against internal and external threats?

    Anyway, about Rice leaving it up to SK conscience, I don’t know what to make of that statement. If we left decisions up to government/politician conscience, I think we would be in for a lot of disappointments. I would first believe in Santa before existence of such qualities in politicians. It would be better to try to convince them that ending NK tourism serves their interest rather than assuming that there is some kind of common global standard for what’s right and wrong.

  2. comment number 2 by: tomato

    The UN sanctions is really a blockade, and it will hurt if determined. If you have too many loopholes and cheaters, it won’t hurt at all.

  3. comment number 3 by: YoungRocco


    What’s up?

    The UN sanctions is really a blockade

    Not really. UN sanctions are really just a measure designed to buy time to mask the indecisiveness of Bush’s cabinet has to what to do regarding North Korea. Moreover, they’re meant to convey a message to the world that the United States is doing something…meant to convey the perception of strength when there actually isn’t any. The United States is too afraid to wage war with North Korea, so they are using sanctions to buy time, until….well, probably until the Iraq quagmire is cleaned up and Iran has been bombed.

    Kim Jong Il, has little to worry about from the U.S. sanctions or not.

  4. […] Occidentalism summarizes the buzz over Mt Geumgang tourism project. Reports said that Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill demanded the supension of “inter-Korea project” as a part of the sanction against North Korea nuclear test. […]

  5. comment number 5 by: Gerry-Bevers


    Secretary Rice, of course, did not directly tell South Korea, “Let your conscience decide your course of action,” but by explaining the importance of sending a strong message to North Korea and leaving South Koreans to contemplate that and the comments of Christopher Hill, the US is probably hoping that South Korea would come up with some strong sanctions on her own. Being too direct with Korea would put her in her negotiation mode, but by leaving Korea wondering what the US expects of her, Korea may decide to play it safe in regard to appeasing her ally by coming up with stronger sanctions than she would have normally done.

  6. comment number 6 by: MarkA

    Koreans have no conscience. They don’t give a damn where the money goes. No force in existence can stop a Korean’s swift pursuit of gratification…this is hedonism at its basest.

    …one [machi]nation, under god money, with FINe Killing Liberty and injustice for all.

  7. comment number 7 by: popper

    South Korea is wise to betray the recent UN resolution because RIce surely continues to say “We are in full concert with South Korea” anytime anyhow. South Korean administration is afraid of being accused of its failure by its opposition party. So is Ms Rice. When she was asked a few years ago why Iraq became the top priority among the Axis of Evil, she replied that Iraq did not have
    neighboring countries which had influence over it.Now it turns out North korea does’nt have such countries. But she has to pretend otherwise. Whatever South Korean officials do. they don’t have any slightest risk.

  8. comment number 8 by: Two Cents

    I got the impression that what Rice said was almost equivalent to “choose whichever side to wish to be on, the US no longer counts on the SK.” But then again, what Gerry said, that it is a strategy to make SK come up with some strong sanctions on her own, also makes sense. However, there’s one problem – Roh, in particular, is not very good at getting the point of such subtle bargaining.

  9. comment number 9 by: tomato

    Getting to sound like:

    Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuerer! Mansei!

  10. comment number 10 by: GarlicBreath

    I reccomend putting santions on SK too. I am glad this issues is being thought about. Freezing NK must be done, but because the anti-american and anti-japanese south koreans cannot be trusted to stop the north korean threat, they should be treated as the enemy too.

  11. comment number 11 by: empraptor


    Of course Rice didn’t say anything about conscience. I was commenting on your statement.


    Once you’ve categorized SK as Japan’s and US’s enemy, what will you do with countries that may remain friendly to SK? Assuming that someone with the ability to pull of a sanction on SK thinks this is a good idea, what will happen to those countries that violate that sanction?

    I wonder if you thought that through.

  12. comment number 12 by: tomato


    I know that Garlic Breath is probably fooling around and I don’t buy his “blockading SK” joke, but…

    what will you do with countries that may remain friendly to SK

    If you take away the US and Japan from SK, I don’t think there would be much friends left (unless you mean NK).

  13. comment number 13 by: empraptor

    BS, tomato. You’re telling me all countries will stop doing business with SK if she doesn’t stop NK tourism.

    By all means, have your opinion on whether stopping NK tourism will stop NK nuke programs. But it is hard for me to believe this issue overrides economic self-interest for all states involved in trade with SK.

  14. comment number 14 by: GarlicBreath

    anyoung (hi) empraptor:

    Who do you refer to as SK friends? You mean the african nations that SK gave money to in order to secure Ban Ki Moon position in the UN? By friendly, you mean just trade, right.

    Yes lots of nations will trade with SK. But if the USA and Japan put the pinch on SK that is all that is needed.

    SK needs to stop paying for the developement of NK nukes.

    The US and Japan need to put harshest santions on the Axis of kimchee.

  15. comment number 15 by: tomato

    You’re telling me all countries will stop doing business with SK if she doesn’t stop NK tourism.

    Did I? I don’ think so.

    I just said that SK should cherish her friends…Japan and US…instead of embracing her enemy.

  16. […] Gerry Bevers has rightly blasted the South Korean government for its policy of continuing its Mt. Geumgang tour program, which puts foreign currency directly into the hands of the North Korean regime. South Korea continues to bankroll Pyongyang and the U.S. government continues to put up with this outrage: it’s about time for Washington to end this B.S. alliance! […]