North Korea asks South to discuss removal of ‘capitalist’ mountain resort facilities

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the Mt Kumgang tourist resort which he criticized as having ‘backward’ and ‘hotchpotch’ facilities in this undated picture released by North Korea’s Central News Agency. (KCNA via Reuters)
Updated 25 October 2019

North Korea asks South to discuss removal of ‘capitalist’ mountain resort facilities

  • Mt Kumgang was one of two major inter-Korean economic projects, along with the Kaesong industrial zone
  • Tourism has become increasingly key to Kim Jong Un’s policy of “self-reliant” economic growth

SEOUL: North Korea has proposed that Seoul discuss the removal of its facilities from the North’s resort of Mount Kumgang, a key symbol of cooperation that Pyongyang recently criticized as “shabby” and “capitalist,” the South’s officials said on Friday.
In the latest sign of the neighbors’ cooling ties, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has urged that the South’s “backward” and “hotchpotch” facilities at the infrequently used resort be taken down and rebuilt, the North’s KCNA news agency has said.
On Friday, North Korea sent a notice to the South’s Unification Ministry, which handles issues between the two sides, seeking discussion through the exchange of documents, the ministry said.
“The government will actively respond through consultations with relevant agencies to protect the property rights of our people,” it said in a statement.
Any withdrawal of South Korean relics from the scenic resort would be another setback for President Moon Jae-in’s campaign to end confrontation between the old foes, including efforts to resume stalled business initiatives.
“The North asking the South to discuss the issue ‘in writing’ means they don’t even want to talk about other things,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at South Korea’s Sejong Institute.
Mt Kumgang was one of two major inter-Korean economic projects, along with the Kaesong industrial zone, and an important token of rapprochement during decades of hostilities following the 1950-53 Korean War.
Kim, on a visit to a nearby province, hailed a new tourist resort being built there as a striking contrast to Mt Kumgang’s “architecture of capitalist businesses targeting profit-making from roughly-built buildings,” KCNA said.
However, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said he did not see the North’s proposal as a bid to exclude the South, because Kim Jong Un had said he would welcome South Koreans if it was properly rebuilt, the Yonhap news agency said.
Tourism has become increasingly key to Kim’s policy of “self-reliant” economic growth, as it is not directly subject to UN sanctions aimed at curbing the North’s nuclear programs, though they ban the transfer of bulk cash to Pyongyang.
There have been no South Korean tours to Mt Kumgang since 2008, although there have been infrequent events such as the reunions of families from both sides separated by the war.
Kim has called for Mt. Kumgang to refurbished in “our own style” alongside other tourist zones, such as the Wonsan-Kalma coastal area and the Masikryong ski resort.
The Wonsan beach resort, one of Kim’s pet projects, is seen nearing completion by early 2020 after “remarkable construction progress” since April, 38 North, a US-based project that studies North Korea, said in a report, citing satellite imagery.


China reports 17 new cases in viral pneumonia outbreak

Updated 19 January 2020

China reports 17 new cases in viral pneumonia outbreak

  • In total, 62 cases of the novel coronavirus have been identified in the city of Wuhan
  • At least a half-dozen countries in Asia and three US airports have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China

BEIJING: Seventeen more people in central China have been diagnosed with a new form of viral pneumonia that has killed two patients and placed other countries on alert as millions of Chinese travel for Lunar New Year holidays.
In total, 62 cases of the novel coronavirus have been identified in the city of Wuhan, where the virus appears to have originated. The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported the new cases in a statement Sunday.
Nineteen of those individuals have been discharged from the hospital, while two men in their 60s — one with severe preexisting conditions — have died from the illness. Eight are in critical condition.
At least a half-dozen countries in Asia and three US airports have started screening incoming airline passengers from central China. The list includes Thailand and Japan, which have together reported three cases of the disease in people who had come from Wuhan.
In the most recently diagnosed group, ages ranged between 30 and 79, Wuhan’s health commission said. Their initial symptoms were fever and cough.
The health commission’s statement did not say whether these patients had visited the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which has been suspended after many infected individuals reported having either worked at or visited the venue.
Li Gang, director and chief physician of the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state broadcaster CCTV that “the infectivity of the new coronavirus is not strong.” Infectivity refers to how rapidly the virus may spread between individuals.
Most patients are experiencing mild symptoms, Li said, and no related cases have been found in more than 700 people who came into close contact with infected patients.
This “does not rule out the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission, but the risk of continuous human-to-human transmission is low,” Li said. “With the implementation of our various prevention and control measures, the epidemic can be prevented and controlled.”
The Chinese government is keen to avoid a repeat of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, another coronavirus that started in southern China in late 2002 and spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800 people.