DPRK sets up condition for inter-Korean talks on tours

08:31, July 27, 2011      

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The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) put forward its condition for Seoul proposed working- level meeting over suspended tours to a scenic mountain north of the border, saying South Korean businessmen should be brought to the meeting, Seoul's Unification Ministry said Tuesday.

South Korea on Monday proposed that officials from both sides meet Friday to discuss tourism issues at the Mount Kumgang resort.

In response, Pyongyang sent a message to the South earlier in the day, saying that it is only willing to accept the proposal of an inter-Korean working-level meeting if the South bring representatives of private companies whose properties at the resort to the talks, the ministry said in a press release.

It will unilaterally dispose the South's properties at the resort in accordance with it's relevant laws if the South wants to take the opportunity of holding working-level meeting to hinder the negotiations over assets problem, the North said in the message.

Seoul's Unification Ministry, which oversees the inter-Korean affairs, said it currently is discussing with related authorities on how to response to the North.

The South and the North have held two rounds of talks about the South's assets at the scenic resort since last June, but the both sides ended with no breakthrough due to substantial difference between them.

At the latest negotiations held on July 13, the North set July 29 as the deadline for further dialogue with the South on the assets issue.

Tours to Mt. Kumgang, launched in 1998 and run by South Korea's Hyundai Asan Corp., were halted in 2008 soon after a South Korean female tourist was shot dead by a DPRK soldier.

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.

Last year, the DPRK unilaterally seized South Korean properties at the resort in response to what it saw as South Korea's reluctance to reopen the suspended tours.

In April this year, the DPRK canceled South Korea's Hyundai Group's exclusive rights to operate tourism at Mt. Kumgang, and declared to establish a special zone for international tours at the resort.

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