North Korea Is Demolishing a Golf Course Owned by the South

Dismantling the $41-million resort that was once a sweet spot between the Koreas would chip away at what little hope remains of their reconciliation.
Junhyup Kwon
Seoul, KR
North Korea, Golf, Hotel, South Korea, Mount Kumgang
Visitors tour the South Korean-owned golf course at the Mount Kumgang resort, also known as Diamond Mountain, in North Korea on Sept. 1, 2011. Photo: AP Photo / Ng Han Guan, File

SEOUL — North Korea is demolishing a $41-million golf resort built and owned by a South Korean company in a special tourist zone that was seen as a symbol of peace and once provided a rare point of interaction between the two countries technically still at war since the 1950s.

Pyongyang is dismantling the mothballed Kumgang Ananti Golf and Spa Resort near Mount Kumgang on the country’s east coast, where the business was jointly run by the two Koreas, the South’s Ministry of Unification confirmed to VICE World News on Wednesday following local reports of the move.

North Korea, Golf, Hotel, South Korea, Mount Kumgang

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Photo: STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

The resort was once the focal point of the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region, an extremely rare sweet spot in North Korea where citizens from the South were allowed. Its demolition will chip away at already fragile hopes of economic cooperation and cultural exchange between the Koreas, and mark further hardening by the North in the face of international sanctions.

The revelation follows news about the demolition of another former tourist spot in the region—Hotel Haegumgang, a floating hotel also owned by a South Korean company. Seoul said Friday the North was dismantling the hotel, calling it “unilateral dismantlement.” 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the removal of the South’s facilities in the Mount Kumgang region in 2019, saying they were “shabby” and looked “unpleasant.” At the time, South Korean media outlets were reporting that Kim was angered by continuous sanctions against North Korea, and the South’s failure to resume trips to the tourist region, which had brought revenue to the North.

The South Korean government declined to disclose more information about the progress and method of demolition but has called on the North to stop the unilateral action that it said “violates property rights” of South Korean companies.


Ananti, the South Korean operator of the golf resort, said Tuesday it had decided to forego the business. “It’s regrettable to close our Mount Kumgang project,” Ananti said in a statement. “We, however, have decided to give it up in order to focus on the future.”

The golf resort was a dream project for Ananti chairman and Korea Golf Association president Lee Jung-myung, who directed the development of the site in 2004 in hopes of easing tensions between the countries, including by holding international sports events.

Lee had wanted to host an international golf tournament at the resort as recently as last year, but he dropped the idea when tensions rose over Pyongyang’s missile tests and reports of the North planning to destroy the facilities.

Despite the impending loss of its property, Ananti has not considered taking legal action or seeking compensation, a communication officer at the company told VICE World News.

Boasting an 18-hole golf course and 96 guest rooms, the resort opened in May 2008 but was forced to close just two months later, when a South Korean tourist who had reportedly wandered into a restricted zone near the resort was shot dead by a North Korean soldier.

It was the first known case of a civilian killing at the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region, which was visited by nearly 2 million South Koreans since it was established in 1998. But since the fatal shooting, the South has banned its citizens from traveling to the area.

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