SEOUL – North Korea is seeking to put the scenic Mount Kumgang on the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve list, state media reported on Monday, even as the hermetic country is trying to promote ecotourism.
An official from the North Korean Biodiversity Institute told state television KCTV that Pyongyang has already completed its proposal to get the mountain registered in the list, which promotes conservation of environmental fauna and flora and sustainable development.
“We are making efforts to develop a new field of ecotourism and apply it to the real world,” said the official.
North Korea is looking to boost its tourism industry – especially in the eastern province of Kangwon, running from the coastal town of Wonsan to the Kumgang National Park, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the southeast – to increase its foreign-exchange earnings amid growing sanctions against the country over its continued weapons testing.
Four North Korean mountains are already on the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve list, including Mount Paektu and Mount Myohyang, where trekking packages for foreign tourists are also being offered.
Kumgang also has a hotel complex jointly developed by the two Koreas and in the past has allowed South Koreans to visit a country to which they have virtually no access.
The Seoul government banned organized trips to the resort after a South Korean tourist died there from shots fired by North Korean soldiers, who said that the woman had entered a restricted area and fled when she was asked to stop.
Faced with South Korea’s refusal to resume the tours, the Kim Jong-un regime had completely taken over the complex earlier this decade.