Resort facilities

South Korea’s Ananti closes book on North Korea tourism facilities, delists assets

Fourteen years after Ananti Inc suspended tourism operations in North Korea, the South Korean company said it would write off assets worth around $41 million as Pyongyang began dismantling facilities .

Ananti will cancel a golf course and resort – valued at a total of 50.7 billion won ($41 million) last year – located in the Mount Kumgang tourist area and does not plan to continue its future activities in North Korea, he said on Tuesday. .

Its operations in North Korea have been suspended since 2008, after a North Korean soldier shot and killed a South Korean tourist who had wandered unknowingly into a military zone.

“With over 1.3 trillion won in total assets currently held by Ananti and seven platforms operated or prosecuted, we decided that rather than continually harming brand value and trust due to an asset worth around 50 billion won, it would be the right way to wipe the slate clean and focus on the future,” Ananti said in a statement.

The closure of Mount Kumgang is regrettable, but going forward, Ananti will focus on expanding its brand in South Korea and other countries overseas, the company added.

North Korea appears to have started demolishing buildings at the Ananti Golf and Spa Resort, said an official with South Korea’s unification ministry, which handles relations with the North.

The site had luxurious facilities and a 19-hole golf course when it was completed in the city of Kosong in 2008, but never opened to South Korean tourists due to the shooting that took place. occurred before it became operational.

North Korea has not confirmed news of the demolition.

On Tuesday, the official KCNA news agency reported that a forest fire broke out near the golf course on Saturday, damaging unspecified facilities.

Seoul-based NK News, which monitors North Korea and first reported the golf course demolition, said it was unclear from commercial satellite images whether the fire or the destruction of the building had occurred first.

Mount Kumgang was one of two major inter-Korean economic projects, along with the Kaesong Industrial Zone, and an important sign of cooperation between the countries during the decades of hostilities following the 1950-53 Korean War.

Mount Kumgang tours were launched in 1998 with investment from South Korean firms such as Hyundai Asan Corp and Ananti, providing a scarce source of cash worth millions of dollars a year for Pyongyang.

In October 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the “backward” and “shabby” facilities at the resort town of Mount Kumgang needed to be removed and rebuilt in a modern way, as relations between the neighbors cooled.

The resumption of economic cooperation is among many engagement efforts that appear to be on hold for the foreseeable future amid increasingly divisive moves by Pyongyang and South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s vow to take a line. harder on the North.

Last week, the Unification Ministry expressed regret over North Korea’s unilateral dismantling of the Haegeumgang Hotel, a huge floating facility owned by Hyundai Asan, moored near the golf course.

“This not only violates the investment guarantee agreement between the South and the North, but also undermines credibility between commercial operators who are committed to resolving issues through consultation,” the ministry said on Friday.

Hyundai Asan called for the protection of its assets in the North.

($1 = 1,237.2100 won)

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Kirsten Donovan)