Kim orders South's buildings at resort in North be destroyed

North Korea Kumgang

North Korea Kumgang

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the destruction of South Korean-made hotels and other tourist facilities at the North's Diamond Mountain resort, apparently because Seoul won't defy global sanctions and resume South Korean tours at the site.

Kumgang, along with the now-closed Kaesong industrial complex just north of the countries' heavily armed border, was once seen as an example of what they could achieve despite military and political tensions.

In September past year, President Moon Jae-in and Kim agreed to normalize the now-shuttered Kumgang tourism and Kaesong industrial park project when conditions mature. He didn't offer a specific answer when asked whether the South could do anything to stop the North if it begins to tear down the facilities unilaterally.

South Korea-funded facilities have remained there since then, but tours from the South have not resumed amid worldwide sanctions trying to force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs.

While the resort was developed more than a decade ago as a symbol of collaboration, South Korean tours have been suspended since 2008 after one of its tourists was shot dead by a North Korean soldier for crossing into an off-limits zone.

The regime has pushed Seoul to ignore U.S. objections to greater inter-Korean cooperation, but any South Korean investment in Kumgang would violate worldwide sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

"We will always welcome our compatriots from the south if they want to come to Mt Kumgang after it is wonderfully built as the world-level tourist destination", Kim added.

"He said that due to the mistaken policy of the predecessors who tried to get benefits without any efforts after just offering the tourist area, the mountain was left uncared for more than ten years". It included hotels, restaurants, shopping arcades and a performance hall with the then modern facilities standing out from slipshod North Korean-built structures in the area.

The majority of South Korean facilities at the resort were built by Hyundai Asan.

Lim Soo-ho, an analyst from South Korea's Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank affiliated with Seoul's main spy agency, said the North would struggle mightily to develop the area without the help of the South considering its lack of resources.

According to a South Korean newspaper, USA negotiators made a pitch to their North Korean counterparts at recent talks in Stockholm, Sweden, to help the socialist state develop a new tourist area on its east coast.

Wonsan-Kalma is a major development project pushed ahead by Mr Kim after he came to power.

North and South Korea had been exploring the prospect of re-starting joint economic projects before a recent cooling in relations.

In a summit last September in Pyongyang, Kim and Moon vowed to restart South Korean tours to Diamond Mountain and normalize operations at an inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, voicing optimism that USA -led sanctions could end and allow such projects.

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