Seoul proposes meeting with Pyongyang on dormant North Korean tour project

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, visits the Diamond Mountain resort in Kumgang, North Korea. (KCNA/Korea News Service via AP)
Updated 29 October 2019

Seoul proposes meeting with Pyongyang on dormant North Korean tour project

  • Kim Jong Un last week ordered the destruction of Seoul-built facilities in North Korea’s Diamond Mountain resort
  • The inter-Korean tourism project began in 1998 and was a rare source of foreign currency for the impoverished North

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea on Monday proposed a face-to-face meeting with North Korea over the fate of a long-shuttered joint tourist project at a scenic North Korean mountain.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week ordered the destruction of South Korean-built facilities at the North’s Diamond Mountain resort, saying they look “shabby” and “unpleasant-looking.” North Korea later proposed an exchange of documents to work out details.
The inter-Korean tourism project began in 1998 and was a rare source of foreign currency for the impoverished North, but it was halted in 2008 when a North Korean soldier fatally shot a South Korean tourist there.
Pyongyang has called for the project’s restart since it entered nuclear diplomacy with Washington and Seoul last year. But Seoul cannot revive tours to the mountain and other massive stalled inter-Korean economic projects while international sanctions remain in place over the North’s nuclear program.
On Monday, South Korea sent a message proposing officials from the two Koreas meet to discuss issues on the tourist project including the North’s push to tear down South Korean-constructed facilities there, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry. Spokesman Lee Sang-min said South Korea hasn’t yet proposed a specific date and location for that meeting.
Lee said South Korea has determined there should be “some sort of meeting” between the two Koreas to discuss the issue.
The South Korean-made facilities include hotels, restaurants, spas and a golf course.
North Korea didn’t immediately respond to South Korea’s proposals.


As panic reaches fever pitch, Pakistan envoy in China urges calm over coronavirus

Updated 26 January 2020

As panic reaches fever pitch, Pakistan envoy in China urges calm over coronavirus

  • Says no Pakistanis in China infected with disease so far
  • Over 28,000 Pakistani students and over 2,000 traders frequent cities across China

ISLAMABAD: Amid heightened panic among thousands of Pakistanis in China during the early days of a deadly coronavirus outbreak, Pakistan’s envoy to Beijing said on Sunday no Pakistanis in the country had been affected by the disease so far, while urging calm.
There are over 28,000 Pakistani students studying all over China, 800 resident traders and 1,500 Pakistani traders who travel to China frequently. In Wuhan alone, the epicentre of the outbreak, there are at least 500 Pakistani students present, according to foreign office figures released on Saturday.
But in a video statement circulated to the Pakistani community and students in China, Pakistani ambassador Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi called for restraint in spreading false information on social media.
“No Pakistani in China has been affected by coronavirus so far. Please avoid sharing any unconfirmed reports or rumors on social media as this can create panic in the families back in Pakistan,” Hashmi said, and added that the Chinese government had announced it would automatically renew all visas that expired after Jan. 23 without any charges.
“The Pakistan mission is fully aware of the problems faced by Pakistanis in China due to coronavirus outbreak and trying its best to facilitate its nationals,” she said.
She also asked all Pakistanis to avoid going out in public, to wear face masks, practice improved hygiene and to avoid the consumption of meat, eggs and milk. 
The Pakistan Embassy also urged Pakistani students to remain vigilant while adopting good preventive measures in its latest advisory issued on Sunday.
“Pakistani community members and students in Wuhan are advised to cooperate with Chinese health authorities for curbing the spread of virus; understand the prevention and control measures taken and comply with official instructions,” the Pakistani mission in Beijing said.
The embassy also asked all Pakistanis to register with the mission to get timely updates and so they could be easily facilitated in case of an emergency evacuation.
But families back home in Pakistan have expressed grave concern for the well-being of their loved ones in China.
“We are worried about the health of our daughter who is studying at Xiamen University since 2018,” Rawalpindi-based Zahoor Ahmad, father of Maham Zahoor who is pursuing her Master’s degree in international relations, told Arab News on Saturday. “I talked to her this morning and advised her to remain indoors and avoid unnecessary movement, especially to markets and other public places.”
The coronavirus, which emerged in December, has now spread to other countries, but the majority of the 2,000 cases and all 56 deaths, have been reported in China.
Earlier this week, Chinese authorities shut down transportation from Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, hoping to contain the spread of virus, and have since expanded the lockdown to other cities, covering a total population of about 35 million people.
The World Health Organization described the outbreak as an emergency for China, though it stopped short of declaring it a public health emergency of international concern just yet.
“We are facing problems as we have been asked to remain in our hostels. We are facing an acute shortage of food as shops and restaurants are closed due to the blockade of the city,” Muhammad Atiq, a PhD student of Public Administration at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, told Arab News by telephone from China.
Atiq added that his family in Pakistan were getting increasingly worried.
“The university promised to provide us with special masks, but we haven’t received them yet as air traffic, railways and even taxi services are closed in the city. We could not even offer Friday prayers since all sorts of gatherings have been banned in the city,” he said.
Mumtaz Begum, a school principal from southern Punjab whose daughter is a student at Peking University in Beijing, expressed serious concerns for the health of her daughter while speaking to Arab News.
“I want her to come back to Pakistan, but she has her exams in a couple of months. I have asked her to remain inside her apartment, wear a mask and avoid going to public places. We all are praying for her health as the virus is spreading to the whole of China,” she said.
On Saturday, at least two people suspected of contracting coronavirus were admitted to Nishtar hospital in Multan, southern Punjab. The government has so far denied reports of any confirmed case of the disease in Pakistan.