Could North Korea resurrect its brand of military tourism?
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Could North Korea resurrect its brand of military tourism?

NORTH KOREA’S Wonsan Resort is just one example of the state combining military and tourism.

In 1998, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to open part of the current Wonsan zone – called Mount Kumgang – to tourists, and served as a symbol of cooperation and hard currency for the North, Reuters reported.

According to South Korean government figures, nearly two million Southerners visited the area over a decade, most of whom would go hiking in the countryside.

However, in 2008, a North Korean soldier shot dead a 53-year-old South Korean woman who had wandered across a forbidden line into a military area.

Since then, South Korea suspended all tours and businessmen who ran souvenir shops and restaurants in the zone lost their assets to North Korea.

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Seoul demanded an investigation, an apology from the North, and assurances that no such thing would happen again. Pyongyang refused and has threatened to end South Korean companies’ exclusive rights to run tours.

Lee Jong-heung, who managed a brewery, a restaurant and duty-free shops, says he invested around US$6 million in Kumgang. He visited in 2013, and said he found the North was “running the shops, my shops, for tourists from China and Hong Kong… it was preposterous.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry has said safety guarantees for South Koreans are among the changes needed before it will consider restarting the tours.

Here’s are snapshots of Wonsan from the past decade:

Could North Korea resurrect its brand of military tourism?

Artists of the Moranbong Band, the State Merited Chorus and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe, perform in Wonsan City of Kangwon Province. Source: North Korea

Could North Korea resurrect its brand of military tourism?

A view of the Wonsan Baby Home and Orphanage, which is close to completion, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 22, 2015. Source: Reuters

Could North Korea resurrect its brand of military tourism?

The Bay of Wonsan is seen from a hotel room in this October, 2016 photo in Wonsan. Source: Reuters

Could North Korea resurrect its brand of military tourism?

Statues of former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are seen in Wonsan. Source: Reuters

Could North Korea resurrect its brand of military tourism?

Snacks for sale are seen in a shop in Wonsan. Source: Reuters

Could North Korea resurrect its brand of military tourism?

College students from the Wonsan Agricultural University in Wonsan, North Korea, shelter from the rain under a university building in October, 2016. Source: Reuters

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