North Korea Launches Joint Cruise Venture with China

Posted August 31st, 2011 at 9:45 am (UTC-5)
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North Korea has joined with Chinese investors to launch a cruise line aimed at carrying foreign tourists to a controversial North Korean seaside resort near its border with South Korea.

The inaugural voyage of the cruise vessel, a converted cargo ship, arrived Wednesday at the Mount Kumgang resort carrying 130 Chinese passengers from the North Korean port city of Rajin, near the Russia-China border.

The tourists arrived just days after the North seized some $300 million in South Korean investor assets at the facility, including restaurants and a hotel. The seizure ended a decade-long joint venture that saw nearly 2 million South Korean tourists pour into the facility, in a highly-touted North-South reconciliation push that pumped badly-needed revenue into North Korea's moribund economy.

Seoul halted the reconciliation project in 2008, after a North Korean border guard shot a killed a South Korean tourist near the demilitarized zone separating the two countries.

South Korea media quote government officials as saying a special team from the unification and foreign ministries is developing strategies to deal with the property dispute.

Seoul has said renting the seized South Korean-owned resort hotel to foreign travel agencies is unacceptable because it violates inter-Korean agreements and infringes on South Korean property rights.