Heavy Metal Thunder

December 16, 2011 7:15 AM

It’s been at least a week since we’ve had a post on tourism, so we must be overdue. We’ve got golf, juche study halls, study tours, radical chic. There’s so much activity on that front that you’d think Wonsan was Miami Beach. Now from the good folks at Koryo Tours, we’ve got the heavy metal tour! Visit the Chollima Steel Works! See the Tae’an Heavy Machine Tool Complex! (Kudos to Curtis Melvin at North Korean Economy Watch for catching this one.) Man, I love to DJ that tour bus—I can just see us rolling into Kim Chaek to “Iron Man.” The possibilities are endless!

(Who goes on these tours?  In a podcast interview with Chad O’Carroll, Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours said something to the effect of “well, some of our clients are people who ‘collect’ countries” bringing to mind a minor subplot in a novel by Milan Kundera (Life is Elsewhere? The Joke? I can’t remember which one) in which two characters have a contest to see which one can sleep with women from the most countries. I’m thinking, “no, it can’t be….hmm, North Korea, I could get a leg up on Vlado with that one… Whatever floats your boat, sailor.)

More seriously, there has been a spate of stories in the South Korean press about Chinese activities at Mount Kumgang. When we asked one knowledgeable observer with his own experiences with the post-Hyundai Asan environment about the reports he responded that

“Nothing in the two articles I saw (in English) said anything about these people "running" the Kumgang complex (or what you call an "assumption of the franchise;" the headlines appear to be typical South Korean media exaggeration), which would be a huge undertaking and one that would guarantee unsustainable financial losses for the foreseeable future.  All the article talks about is them arranging for several "cruises" to visit Kumgang next year.  Big deal. Presumably if they can't fill the cruises (to a level of profitability), which would also include other ports of call along the way, they won't even go to Kumgang.

All this means to me that the "North Koreans" are still in possession of the facilities of Kumgang with little chance of converting them into a money-making operation.  The longer the facilities sit there un- or under-used, the more they will deteriorate and be even less attractive to tourists.”

In the meantime, the North Koreans are talking about seizing South Korean assets outside of Mount Kumgang. Plenty of opportunities for heavy metal thunder…

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