S Korea, DPRK meet over troubled mountain resort

13:18, July 13, 2011      

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South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) are engaged in rare talks over South Korean properties at a jointly run mountain resort north of the border, officials here said Wednesday.

Representatives from the two Koreas are currently discussing procedural matters of the talks, which came after the DPRK threatened to dispose of the South Korean-owned assets worth some 300 million U.S. dollars at the resort, according to the unification ministry in Seoul.

The move comes after a fruitless visit to the scenic mountain in June by a team of South Korean government officials and businessmen. Pyongyang had said the visit will lead to talks on " the matter of disposing" South Korean properties it seized, but the two sides were unable to hold substantial discussions.

Last year, the DPRK unilaterally seized South Korean assets, including hotels, restaurants and a golf course, a response to what it saw as Seoul's reluctance to reopen the suspended cross- border tours that once served as a rare source of hard cash for Pyongyang.

Launched in 1998 amid growing rapprochement, the tours had brought nearly two million South Koreans to the mountain before they were put on hold in 2008 after a female tourist was shot dead by a DPRK sentinel.

Seoul has long refused to reopen the tours without a proper investigation into the shooting death and safety guarantees, while Pyongyang said it has done enough.

Officials here see Pyongyang's unilateral move as an unjustified breach of inter-Korean business agreements, and have vowed to protect property rights of its nationals involved in the project.

The ten-member Seoul delegation is to return home later in the day.

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