North Korea abolishes economic cooperation with South

Pyongyang, North Korea - North Korea's parliament has voted to abolish laws on economic cooperation with the South, state media said Thursday, as relations between the two neighbors hit new lows.

The 30th plenary session of the 14th Standing Committee of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly is held at Mansudae Hall in Pyongyang.
The 30th plenary session of the 14th Standing Committee of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly is held at Mansudae Hall in Pyongyang.  © KCNA via REUTERS

Ties between the two Koreas have been in a deep freeze as Pyongyang accelerates its weapons development programs and Seoul ramps up military cooperation with Washington and Tokyo, with key inter-Korean economic cooperation projects suspended for years.

At a plenary meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly on Wednesday, officials voted to scrap the law on inter-Korean economic cooperation "with unanimous approbation," the Korean Central News Agency reported.

The latest decision comes after Pyongyang last month declared Seoul its main enemy, jettisoned agencies dedicated to reunification, and threatened to occupy the South during war.

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The parliament also unanimously approved a plan to abolish a special law on the operation of the Mount Kumgang tourism project, once a prominent symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

The resort was built by South Korea's Hyundai Asan on one of the North's most scenic mountains, and once drew hundreds of thousands of visitors from the South.

But its tours ended abruptly in 2008 after a North Korean soldier shot dead a tourist from the South who strayed off an approved path, and Seoul suspended travel.

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The North Korean parliament also unanimously approved a plan to abolish a special law on the operation of the Mount Kumgang tourism project.
The North Korean parliament also unanimously approved a plan to abolish a special law on the operation of the Mount Kumgang tourism project.  © AFP

The Mount Kumgang resort was once one of the two biggest inter-Korean projects, along with the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex, where Southern companies employed North Korean workers while paying Pyongyang for their services.

Seoul pulled out of the venture – launched in the wake of a 2000 inter-Korean summit – in 2016 in response to a nuclear test and missile launches by the North, saying Kaesong profits were helping fund the provocations.

In 2020, the North blew up a liaison office with the South on its side of the border – paid for by Seoul – saying it had no interest in talks.

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After years of Covid-linked border closures, restarting its lucrative tourism business would offer the North a means of generating hard cash, but could now violate international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

As Pyongyang draws closer to Moscow – also under a raft of global sanctions over the war in Ukraine – Seoul-based website NK News has reported that Russian tourists are set to visit the North this month.

Cover photo: KCNA via REUTERS

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