The Mt. Diamond Mt. Tour
A cash cow for the Chairman Kim and a boondoggle for the South Koreans
April 14, 2001
The prospect of the DJ’s engagement policy vis-à-vis North Korea has begun to show the signs of fatigue today, when the Hyundai Group struggle to contain the demise of their first landmark venture investment to the North Korean wilderness, the Mt. Diamond Tour, in which DJ Kim considers it more than a business project but a gateway to the hermit kingdom.
Since the tour project has a symbiotic relationship with the Sunshine policy, DJ’s engagement with the North would run aground when the cruise ship, a cash cow for Chairman Kim, sinks.
Therefore, the financial mandarins from the South Korean government have forced the local creditor banks, contrary to the announced policy of market economy, to extend trillions of won to free the Group from severe liquidity crunches, since the Group’s difficulties are originated partly from the snowballing deficits in its North projects, including Tour and other development plans.
The Mt. Diamond Tour that the Hyundai Asan already invested over $500 million is losing an average of 200 million won a day and lost already 90 billion won last year.
From the beginning, It was a businessman’s nightmare to sign the tour contract of $12 million fee per month with the North Korea, in which tour package solely depends upon the sensational, illusory, and pipe-dream appeals toward the lost land that was targeted for the limited and amorphous tourist group and destined for a boondoggle for the South Korean taxpayers.
No one believed that the late founder of the Hyundai Group initiated the North projects based entirely on the business adventures…he was a typical conservative and legacy-seeking tycoon who once stood for the Presidential aspiration, and he, as a North Korea-born native son, wanted to leave his name in the Korean history book as a legendary gate opener, as DJ Kim and other Korean politicians strive for.
Mt. Diamond Tour was a pet project of the legacy-building for the Hyundai founder as much as the Sunshine policy is for DJ Kim, and no one would dispute over their legacy-hungry adventures if they are ready to pay for the exorbitant costs of playing pattycakes with Chairman Kim JI.
The former had traveled twice to the North with a convoy of trucks loaded each time with five hundreds cows from his farm and proffered cows and trucks as a personal tribute to Chairman Kim.
When DJ Kim had solicited Chairman Kim for summit talk last year, he paid off an unknown sum of greenbacks into the Chairman’s bank account in Singapore according to the report from the International Herald Tribune.
Whose cows and trucks were they? Of course, cows and trucks belonged to the late Hyundai chief at the time when he led the convoy.
Whose cash was it? Neither one knows where the money came from nor DJ personally dished out from his own pocket.
However, when the questions of who eventually pay for the patt-a-cakes were raised in public, the matter is not as simple as black and white, as people generally assume.
Last month, there was an emergency meeting on Saturday where high priests from DJ’s government and presidents of creditor banks for Hyundai Group hurriedly gathered to endorse the financial rescue package of over $2 billion to extend additional funds to the three core subsidiaries, Electronics, Engineering and Construction and Petrochemical.
And these subsidiaries each have stakes in the farm where the late chief took cows as personal properties and the farm later went bankrupt eventually, leaving millions of dollars liabilities in the debit side of the ledgers at the Hyundai subsidiaries.
Taking into account the fact that those creditor banks are fed with huge amount of public funds, then embarked on to extend loans to non-viable business projects like Mt. Diamond Tour and Farm project with funds coming from hardworking Joe Blows, the South Koreans have consequently assumed the cost of convoys of trucks while the founder of the Chaebol (Korean business Conglomerates) was feasted as a generous philanthropist at the People’s Palace in Pyongyang by Chairman Kim.
The South Korean taxpayers need a clutch of brilliant accountants to audit the liabilities of the bellied-up farm and money-losing tour that disappeared in a maze of bookkeeping for the Group, whose liabilities were underwritten with taxpayer’s funds by the creditor banks.
Roughly at this stage, South Koreans would be able to come to grips with the reality that cows and trucks, in effect, did not belong to Hyundai chief’s personal properties, and the chief has consequently stolen people’s assets and prodigally spent it for building his own legacy.
According to the media report yesterday, a senior official from DJ’s inner circle said that Mt. Diamond tour program must continue under any circumstances as a model of Sunshine policy, indicating that the suspension of the tour means the shutdown of the window to the North, dealing a fatal setback to inter-Korean relations.
In a nutshell, DJ Kim is determined to keep the tour open no matter how much taxpayers have to assume the cost of running the cruise ships, because his Sunshine policy, which fell into coma since his meeting with George W Bush, would fall flat on its face if the Hyundai Group jettison the tour project.
North Koreans earned a critical portion of their revenues from the export business of the missile technology to the region, like Iran, Syria, Iraq and Libya, charging $2 million per head for Scud and $7 million for Taepodong missile.
Since the revenues from missile export have been on an ebb-flow mode depending on the oil price in the world market and the political fluctuation in the region, Mt. Diamond Tour has become a reliable source of steady cash flow that Chairman Kim spends for import of oil, raw materials, computerchips and other machinery which equip, feed, maintain and strengthen his millions of people’s army.
For Chairman Kim, the Mt. Diamond Tour project was a godsend opportunity to earn the cold cash with no expenses…nature offers a pack of nostalgic tourists a spectacular scenic panorama pro bono with pristine waterfalls, rocky hills, clean air and singing birds. The Hyundai Group provided all the necessary facilities and cruise ships. DJ Kim worked and hosted the tour as an exclusive tourist agent and paid all the expenses in advertisement in world media.
And Chairman Kim receives $12 million per month and guaranteed contract over $1 billion until 2005 no matter whether the tour business makes money or goes bankrupt.
On top of this cock-sure business, Chairman Kim was blessed with tens of thousands of his starving people employed as guides, cooks, maids, maintenance crews, watchmen, spies and guards, while his southern counterpart DJ Kim mobilizes goon squads of riot police beating the families of laid-off Daewoo workers to pulp.
After returning from a summit meeting in Washington with George W Bush in early March, DJ Kim appeared to be shell-shocked by one-two punches thrown by the hard-bitten warriors of the new Bush Administration and kept mum about what Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of the State, warned him that DJ should never attempt to proclaim “Peace Declaration” with Chairman Kim and the US would not endorse the return visit by the North’s leader to Seoul for sometime until Uncle Sam is able to formulate what to do with the pariah state.
Apparently, DJ Kim “misunderestimated” the ferocity of grumpy warriors in the Bush Administration, who regard the North Korea an international urchin designated for self-starvation.
Since DJ Kim is under the threat of the trade sanction by Uncle Sam if he intervenes to salvage the private enterprises, his mandarins are desperate looking for an excuse to step in and help Mt. Diamond Tour project out in discreet manner.
On the other hand, Siblings of the Hyundai founder became more smarter than their daddy, refused DJ’s suggestion that the Hyundai Motor, the healthy flagship of the Group, chips in to scoop the debts of the tour project, and countered with the proposal that the Korean National Tourist Organization (KNTR), a government-controlled tour promoter, joins the Hyundai to run the cruise. ,
The Hyundai Group would not pull the plug right under the bottom of cruise ships, because they want to keep holding DJ’s balls tight so as his government would not abandon the Hyundai Group like Daewoo Conglomerates no matter how much South Korean taxpayers are burdened to keep the cruise ship afloat under the slogan of “unification”.
Bottom line is DJ Kim could not abandon or suspend the tour operation, because Chairman Kim, in the defunct scenario, would never make a return visit to Seoul that is the most critical on the revival of his already half-dead Sunshine policy.
Therefore, the costs of keeping DJ’s lust for legacy alive are to be paid continuously by the hard working South Korean Joe Blows as they are paying against their will the prices of cows and trucks that made the Hyundai patriarch a great hero.
As the momentum for the possible North-South summit fades away, DJ’s government and his media lackeys are beating the war drum on the anti-Japanese movement in order to keep the South Koreans under the metaphorical fog that the Sunshine policy is still in effect and in good shape.
And as usual, the South Korean people, from eight-year-old kids to 70ish former war prostitutes, gather, shout, and cry out their anger against the former colonial master, while two Kims observe them in their comfortable palaces caressing the soft noses of their French poodles.
Two Kims feel in the air that their pleasure for playing pattycakes during the Clinton Administration is slipping away in the Bush era, as a clique of hard-nosed warriors in the US government begins to review the Pacific region with the “Reaganesque” understandings.
It is an advent of the funeral process in DJ’s Sunshine policy when the cruise ships in the Mt. Diamond Tour project belly up.