North Korea has announced plans to destroy a South Korean-owned hotel that serves as a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation. It comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un described South Korean facilities in Kumgang as ‘shabby.’
Officials in Seoul have urged the North to halt its ‘unilateral’ damage. Cha Deok-cheol, a spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry, stated that Seoul ‘seriously laments North Korea’s unilateral dismantlement’ of the hotel. According to Cha, Seoul used inter-Korean communication channels to seek an explanation and negotiations on the problem, but the North refused.
During a high phase of engagement between the adversaries in the 1990s, South Korea erected dozens of facilities in North Korea’s Diamond Mountain resort to accommodate tourism by its residents. South Korean excursions to Diamond Mountain were a prominent symbol of inter-Korean cooperation. It was also a significant revenue source for the North’s damaged economy till the South halted them in 2008 when a North Korean guard fatally shot a South Korean visitor.
After months of dissatisfaction with Seoul’s refusal to disobey US-led sanctions that prevented the tours from continuing, Kim Jong-Un ordered the resort’s demolition. Sung Kim, the US State Department’s senior North Korean envoy, has stated, ‘We are concerned that the DPRK may be tempted to take another provocative step in connection with the forthcoming April 15 anniversary.’
‘I don’t want to guess too much,’ he continued, ‘but I think it may be another missile launch or a nuclear test. We have gotten no answer from Pyongyang, which is really frustrating, because we sent multiple signals, both public and private, asking them to have a conversation with no restrictions. Instead, they launched a series of missile tests, culminating in at least three ICBM launches. These measures represent a significant risk to regional stability’, he continued.