North Korea: "No intention to examine" Hyundai Group chief's bid to visit

FILE PHOTO: South Korea's Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun speaks to the media upon her arrival at the CIQ office, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea has no intention to "examine" South Korea's Hyundai Group chief's plan to visit the North's Mount Kumgang, the country's foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun has been seeking to visit North Korea in August and submitted applications to South Korea's unification ministry, Yonhap news agency reported on Friday, citing an unnamed official at the ministry. Hyundai's late founder, Chung Ju-Yung, was born in North Korea.

In response to the South's media reports, the North said it has "neither been informed about any south Korean personage's willingness for visit nor known about it and that we have no intention to examine it."

"It is the policy of the DPRK government that entry by any personage of south Korea into its territory cannot be allowed," North Korea said in a statement, adding that its policy is unchangeable and will be maintained in the future.

South Korea's unification ministry in a statement expressed deep regret over what it called the North's unilateral refusal, adding that Hyundai's application has been reviewed by relevant ministries and that it would handle the matter taking into account the North's announcement.

Mount Kumgang is on North Korea’s east coast near the demilitarised zone separating the two countries. Development there, along with the Kaesong industrial zone, had been the major economic projects of, and a token of rapprochement between, the governments on the peninsula split by the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Thursday picked a conservative scholar and an outspoken critic of North Korea's human rights record as South Korea's unification minister handling relations with Pyongyang.

The nomination is likely to add strain to ties between the two Koreas. North Korea has long rejected criticism of its rights conditions as part of a plot to overthrow its rulers.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Sandra Maler and William Mallard)