Kim Jong Un visits 'peculiar and absolutely perfect' North Korean spa town

Jake Kwon and Joshua Berlinger, CNNUpdated 25th October 2019
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Seoul (CNN) — It's not quite spa wars, but North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has used the steamy atmosphere of a hot spring resort to turn the temperature up on his criticism of South Korea.
Kim showered effusive praise on the newly renovated Yangdok Country Hot Spring Resort, according to state media, during his visit to an area being developed as a ski destination.
But he wasn't there to relax, instead taking a swipe at a symbolic tourism town, Mount Kumgang, partly funded as a peace gesture by South Korea but recently ordered to be demolished by North Korea.
Kim Jong Un visits the Yangdok County Hot Spring Resort in North Korea.
Kim was effusive with his praise for the resort, which he said was a major contrast to another town partly funded by South Korea.
Kim described the Yangdok complex as a "perfect match for the geographic characteristics and natural environment of the area," the state-run KCNA news agency reported.
"Feasting on the service buildings in the hot spring resort from the observation deck, he said it is peculiar and absolutely perfect," it added.
Kim went on to say Yangdok was a "striking contrast" to the Mount Kumgang tourist area, whose destruction marked an inauspicious end to a project that had attracted millions of dollars in investment from the South in the hope of improving ties after decades of hostility.
Kim Jong Un visits the Yangdok County Hot Spring Resort in North Korea.
The Yangdok County Hot Spring Resort is a major new tourist development in North Korea.
The Mount Kumgang project was suspended in 2008 when a South Korean tourist was shot by North Koreans after she entered a military zone, and had sat largely untouched until they were used for family reunions last year.
Those reunions were part of a wider rapprochement between Pyongyang and Seoul, and Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in had vowed last year to re-open Mount Kumgang "as soon as the conditions allow."
Kim Jong Un visits the Yangdok County Hot Spring Resort in North Korea.
Since then relations between the two countries have soured, and following a visit to the region this month, the North Korean leader said facilities around the mountain were "shabby" and likened them to "a hotchpotch with no national character at all, and that they were built like makeshift tents in a disaster-stricken area or isolation wards."
He ordered all structures erected by South Korea to be rebuilt so they "meet our own sentiment and aesthetic taste."
Kim Jong Un visits the Yangdok County Hot Spring Resort in North Korea.
Hyundai Asan -- which funded much of the Mount Kumgang development -- said in a statement it was "confused by this sudden announcement" but it would "respond in a calm manner."
South Korea's Unification Ministry said Friday that it had received a letter from North Korea asking to discuss the destruction of the Mount Kumgang facilities via the Kaesong communications office, which was reopened following the talks between Kim and Moon last year.
Kim Jong Un visits the Yangdok County Hot Spring Resort in North Korea.
Kim has been on a flurry of inspection tours recently. The Yangdok County visit comes after he rode a white horse up Mount Paektu, one of the country's most important cultural and geological sites.