Seoul Says No to Discussing Resumption of Mt. Kumgang Tours

      September 24, 2010 12:46

      Seoul on Thursday declined a proposal from North Korea to discuss a resumption of package tours to Mt. Kumgang on the agenda of Red Cross talks scheduled on Friday in Kaesong. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss fresh reunions of families separated by the Korean War.

      North Korea on Monday said it is sending two officials who took part in previous talks on the resumption of tours to Mt. Kumgang and asked the South to send officials accordingly, hinting that it wants to discuss the issue. The tours, which have meant much-needed hard currency for the North, have been suspended since the fatal shooting of a South Korean tourist there in 2008.

      But Seoul said the South Korean delegation will be headed by the Red Cross chief, who solely in charge of discussing family reunions. A Unification Ministry said, "Family reunions and resumption of tours to Mt. Kumgang are two completely separate issues."

      The two Koreas on Friday last week agreed that the new round of family reunions will take place from Oct. 21 to 27, but could not reach consensus on the venue. North Korea vaguely mentioned "inside the Mt. Kumgang zone" while the South suggested a South Korean facility at the resort specially built for the purpose but seized by North Korea in a fit of pique earlier this year.

      A source in the South Korean government said, "North Korea wants to take this opportunity to resume the operation of tours to Mt. Kumgang, whereas South Korea wants the North to return the confiscated South Korean assets."

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