Continued from page 1

In 1972, South Korean spy chief Lee Hu-rak hosted a historic meeting there with a Red Cross delegation from North Korea, the country’s avowed enemy, according to the former butler. Lee eventually brokered a joint statement in which the two Koreas agreed to work toward peacefully reunifying the divided peninsula _ a milestone in the two Koreas’ relations after years of animosity.

Cho Han-yong, 93, bought the restaurant in the 1960s. He shut it down last month after the tenants who ran it said they could no longer pay the rent due to declining business, and sold it to a property developer, according to the real estate agency that handled the transaction.

Cho could not be reached for comment.

Accor Ambassador, which runs nine hotels in South Korea, has signed a deal with the developer to manage the new hotel for the next 20 years, said Cho Hyun-jun, a development manager for the joint venture between Accor of France and South Korea’s Ambassador Hotel group.

Cho, the development manager, refused to say what kind of hotel would be built in Ojinam’s place.

However, a person familiar with the project said the developer plans to build a budget hotel. He spoke on condition of anonymity, saying it was a private business transaction. The developer could not be reached for comment.

There is no legal means to stop Ojinam’s owners from dismantling the restaurant unless it is designated a cultural asset, and only about 100 buildings have that status, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

However, Ojinam may not be gone forever.

Workers are taking the restaurant apart carefully, leaving open the possibility of reassembling it elsewhere, said Seo Jung-woong, the contractor carrying out the work.

He said Ojinam may find a new life with other traditional buildings in Gahoe-dong, one of the few remaining neighborhoods in Seoul where classical architecture remains intact.