No Resumption of Tours to Mt. Kumgang, Gov't Pledges

      September 27, 2010 11:54

      A key South Korean government official on Sunday insisted that fresh reunion of families separated by the Korean War do not mean that South Korea will resume package tours to the North's Mt. Kumgang resort, which were a source of much-needed cash for the North Korean regime.

      The official said the two issues are "completely separate." "If North Korea insists on resuming the tours, this round of family reunions may not happen," he added. The two Koreas meet again to discuss the family reunions in Kaesong this Friday.

      The official said the South in last Friday's meeting "suggested that if the reunions cannot happen in Mt. Kumgang, we could do it in another city like Seoul or Pyongyang. But North Korea insisted that the reunions should take place in Mt. Kumgang." But he added the South has "no plans" to resume the tours to Mt. Kumgang just because of the family reunion.

      Another official pledged Seoul "will not give in" to North Korean attempts to weaken sanctions imposed after the North sank the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan.

      North Korea started the present charm offensive on Sept. 10 by suggesting fresh family reunions on Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving. The two sides easily agreed to a later date -- Oct. 21 to 27 -- but not on a venue. North Korea did not specify exactly where the event should take place but said "inside the Mt. Kumgang zone," possibly because Pyongyang has seized a family reunion center built there with South Korean money.

      An official at South Korea's Unification Ministry said, "When North Korea suddenly notified us on Sept. 20 of its plan to send two officials who were involved in the negotiation about resumption of tours to Mt. Kumgang, we had misgivings about it."

      Another source in the government said it would be difficult for either North or South Korea to backtrack on the family reunions and there is hope that the two sides will reach a compromise. "For example, North Korea could back down and agree to hold the family reunion in the South Korean facilities in Mt. Kumgang that it confiscated, and South Korea could propose another meeting about the resumption of package tours after the reunion event."

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