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S Korean tour operator visits DPRK over troubled joint tour program

(Xinhua)

16:14, August 19, 2011

SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Representatives of a South Korean conglomerate that previously operated cross-border tours visited the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) over the troubled tour project, local media reported Friday.

Four Hyundai Asan officials visited a resort at Mount Kumgang, on the east coast just north of the border, to discuss the DPRK's threatened disposal of South Korean-owned properties at the mountain resort, according to YTN television in Seoul.

Last month, the DPRK announced it will press ahead with the planned disposal of assets believed to be worth 325.5 million U.S. dollars and demanded South Korean business operators visit the resort to discuss the issue.

Hyundai Asan officials are expected to ask the DPRK authorities to protect their property rights and delay the asset disposal, YTN said.

The once-lucrative tours to the scenic mountain, launched in 1998 amid a growing rapprochement, were suspended in 2008 after a shooting death of a South Korean tourist who ventured into a restricted military zone.

Seoul has long refused to reopen the tours without a proper investigation into the shooting death and safety guarantees. But Pyongyang, claiming it has done enough, unilaterally seized South Korean assets including hotels, restaurants and a golf course, and terminated its deal with Hyundai Asan.

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