Since 1998, South Korean and other foreign tourists have been allowed to visit Mount Kumgang, traveling at first by cruise ship, but more recently by bus on a newly built road through the Korean Demilitarized Zone. In 2002, the area around the mountain was separated from Kangwon-do and organized as a separately administered Tourist Region, covering 204.6 square miles (530 km2). Since 1998 over one million South Koreans have visited the resort.
In July 2008, Park Wang-ja, a 53-year-old South Korean tourist, was shot twice and killed when she entered a military area, according to the North Korean government. The South Korean request for a joint inquiry was denied. Forensic tests done on Wang-ja suggest that she was standing still or walking slowly when shot. This contradicted the North Korean claim that she was running and did not heed warnings. Immediately after the shooting, the South Korean government temporarily suspended tours to the resort. In August 2008 the North Koreans announced that they would expel "unnecessary" South Korean workers from the resort. Before the closing of access after the 2008 shooting, a few Americans were also allowed to visit, by arranging 2½-day tours through a South Korean tourism agency.
Despite the Lee Myung-bak government expressing a verbal anti-North Korean stance, the head of the government-funded Korea Institute for National Unification, Kim Tae-u, proposed that the South Korean government renegotiate on the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region with North Korea without any official apology on North Korea's military actions towards the ROKS Cheonan sinking and the Bombardment of Yeonpyeong.