By Elizabeth Shim
June 5 (UPI) — The senior North Korean official who met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday may have proposed the construction of a casino, according to a South Korean press report.
Newspaper Donga Ilbo reported Tuesday Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, had requested “investment support” for a casino and other tourist attractions in North Korea’s Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist zone.
Kim Jong Un visited the area, according to state media in May.
Workers’ Party Rodong Sinmun ran a front-page story about the district on Tuesday, including plans to complete construction by April 15, 2019, North Korea’s birth anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung.
Workers on the site are a mix of civilians and military personnel, the Rodong stated in the article.
Donga reported its source, identified only as an individual familiar with U.S.-South Korea diplomatic relations, said Kim Yong Chol had mentioned the casino, as well as the Masikryong Ski Resort and other plans.
Kim may have told Trump the casino could potentially bring in $50 million in annual revenue.
Cho Bong-hyun, a South Korean analyst with the Industrial Bank of Korea, told local news network MBN, the investment proposition could be of interest to the United States.
“If North Korea denuclearization is realized, investment in North Korea will take place in earnest,” Cho said. “The Wonsan area, from the position of the United States, would have merit.”
Expectations are growing in South Korea that travel restrictions will be eased, and people-to-people exchange will resume the levels they reached before a fatal shooting in the Mount Kumgang Tourist Zone in 2008.
Yonhap TV reported Tuesday the number of South Korean tourists to the North could reach 2.6 million annually.
The estimate comes from Shim Sang-jin, professor of tourism at Kyunggi University in Seoul.
The number is about 10 percent of the total number of South Koreans who travel overseas annually, according to the report.