DPRK's rejection of talks "regrettable" : Seoul

16:58, July 27, 2011      

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A row over a cross-border tour program jointly managed by South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) deepened Wednesday, with Seoul calling Pyongyang's rejection of a proposed meeting "regrettable".

Earlier this week, South Korea proposed a working-level meeting between officials from the two sides to discuss South Korean-owned assets the DPRK is threatening to dispose of. The DPRK, in response, insisted businessmen be brought to the talks.

"It's regrettable that North Korea (DPRK) practically rejected talks," Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo told reporters. "It is our position that we cannot comply with measures taken unilaterally by the North."

Tours to Mount Kumgang, just north of the border, were suspended in 2008 after a shooting death of a South Korean tourist there.

Seoul has long refused to reopen the tours without a proper investigation into the shooting death and safety guarantees, while Pyongyang, claiming it has done enough, unilaterally seized South Korean properties at the resort.

Pyongyang's move is seen here as a response to what it views as South Korea's reluctance to reopen the suspended tours, once 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 scenic mountain.

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