Whilst I personally would avoid doing business with spivs and wide-boys – or, at the very least, check and double-check any transactions – generally I expect such chancers to display a sense of self-preservation which does not appear to be present with anyone who would countenance attempting business with North Korea.
Established as a special administrative zone in 2002, the Mount Geumgang Tourist Region is located to the far east of Kangwon province along the DMZ. At its height, hundreds of thousands of Southern tourists were arriving each year and injecting hard currency into the Northern economy.
Like the rest of the Sunshine Policy, however, long-term results of anything more than the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize depended on a sense of economic literacy by Northern officials never mind basic honour in their dealings.
As such, it was doomed to failure long before a Northern guard shot dead a Southern tourist in 2008. The end came in August 2011 when Hyundai Asan representatives were given 72 hours to leave, and all assets being euphemistically “acquired”.
As such, the North began looking for willing investors who have not heard the warnings of latter-day Diues, Roh Jeong-ho. Via Kushibo, I see that a New York based spirits importer, Korea Pyongyang Trading USA has secured a contract to conduct tours.
Previous business interests of this company have included the import of the tipple Pyongyang soju, with questions about its appropriateness being more due to its vile taste than suggestions that was distilled using forced labour. Perhaps this was the reason the North is as keen to acquire luxury Italian spirits as it is to offload the soju.
One only can assume that the director of this company – who appears to go variously by the names of Steve Park and Park Il-woo – has been cleared of suspicions related to spying, as NK Econ Watch linked to soon after his soju hit the streets.