chapter  7
13 Pages

Mount Kumgang: A Case of Promoting Peace Through Tourism or a Meaningless Distraction?

WithJAIME K OH

Introduction Proponents of peace through tourism have argued that tourism is more than just leisure and pleasure; that it is a social force that can heighten awareness of existing inequalities and injustices. They have also argued that tourism is a vital force for promoting peace because there is “no better bridge between people, ideas, ideologies and culture than travel” (Pizam 1996, p. 203). The engagement that takes place between the visitors and the locals is said to promote “mutual understanding, trust and goodwill” (UNWTO 1980), which can then create “a foundation on which to build improved relationships towards the goal of world peace and prosperity” (D’Amore 1988, p. 152). These proponents argue that tourism is “at the most basic level” a form of Track II diplomacy (D’Amore 1988, p. 153). This term refers to informal diplomacy conducted by non-officials (such as sports people, academic scholars, retired civil or military leaders, and tourists, amongst others) who engage in dialogue to foster conflict resolution or confidence-building (Chigas 2003). This chapter explores the efficacy of tourism as a form of Track II diplomacy through a case study of the Mount Kumgang tourism project.2 It will show that, although tourism’s potential for building bridges between communities should not be discounted, using a commercial instrument such as tourism for political objectives in a complex political situation such as the Koreas is not without its difficulties and limitations. I argue that in such situation the tourism project itself can only ever be a cog in the wheels of promoting peace and may in certain circumstances actually act as a barrier to achieving peace. This chapter offers a review of relevant literature and a detailed case study of the Mount Kumgang project. Much of the information on which this chapter’s analysis is based is from sources available in the English language due to resource and capacity limitations. While the analysis is not based on a comprehensive survey of the literature possibly available, it instead offers grounding in peace and conflict studies theory in examining the role of tourism in promoting peace. The analysis is also based on media research stemming from my prior work as a journalist.