Then everything changed. In 2008, a North Korean guard shot and killed Park Wang-ja, a 53-year-old South Korean tourist who had strayed into a military zone, according to the North Korean government. The act stopped tourism in its tracks. North Korea released all of the resort’s South Korean workers and refused to cooperate as the South Korean government called for transparency and justice. North Korea then assumed control of the resort, opening it to internationals tourists only. Hyundai Asan and its investors are said to have lost more than $850 million in the takeover.
Despite North Korean efforts, Mount Kumgang resort remains a mere shadow of its former self. Tourists from other countries visit, but much of the facilities go unused, likely because the new workers do not know how to operate the progressive machinery. Following the decline in tourism, there have also been fewer family reunions between the two countries in recent years. Only 19 reunions have taken place to date, meaning that over 50,000 people are still waiting for the opportunity to reunite with their loved ones.
Today, Mount Kumgang and surrounding areas make up the Tourist Region in North Korea, which is a special administrative region within the country. With its vast collection of historical and religious relics, Mount Kumgang remains a spiritually rich locale. Hiking the mountainous trails is a favorite pastime, and you might even run into statues like these on your trip (below). Would you visit this bizarre resort?
For more on North Korea, check out this gallery on the country’s anti-American propaganda.