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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Korea tourism venture in doubt
Cruise Ship
Only one ship sails the route now, down from 3 at the start of the project
By BBC World Business Report's Louise Greenwood

The future of South Korea's only tourism venture into the North is in doubt after the company running the venture announced it is in urgent need of new money from the Government if its cruise ship tours are to continue.

Hyundai Asan's President, Kim Yoon Ku, called on the South Korean Government to offer urgent financial support or risk seeing its flagship engagement project with the North collapse.

He also indicated to the North Koreans, that unless they agree to allow more tour routes and relax restrictions on where the tourists can go, there could be no future for cross border tourism.

Speaking at a press conference in Seoul, President Kim said Hyundai Asan had lost $150m by the end of last year.

He confirmed that workers at the company would be paid their salaries a week late and that requests for extra money from the company's bankers had been refused.

Falling numbers

It had been hoped that Hyundai Asan's deal to take tourists by ship to the Mount Kumgang region of North Korea would be a breakthrough in North-South relations, even though the two countries remain technically at war since the conflict of 1950-1953.

But tourism from the South to the North hasn't taken off in the way expected.

Hyundai admitted that the numbers of Southerners visiting the North had fallen from a peak of around 800 tourists a month in 1999, to only 300 tourists in September.

Visitor numbers are down, and only one cruise ship makes the journey now, down from three when the tours first began.

Hyundai has been unable to make money from the project.

For the first two years, it paid the North Korean Government $12m a month as a special fee, but now only pays North Korea $100 for each passenger.

Even so, it is clear Hyundai Asan does not believe it can stay in business without a further injection of cash from the government of South Korea.

See also:

05 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Korean tourism talks fail
14 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Korea talks under way
20 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
S Korea rescues joint tourism project
10 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea cruises cut back
12 Feb 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
North Korea's voyage of discovery
07 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea opens up to tourists
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