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N. Korea to carry out freezing of S. Korean assets over four days next week

All Headlines 14:51 April 24, 2010

SEOUL, April 24 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has notified Hyundai Asan, a South Korean operator of tours to the North, that it will carry out its announced seizure of South Korean facilities at a mountain resort on its soil from Tuesday until Friday afternoon, company officials said Saturday.

On Friday, North Korea announced that it would seize five South Korean properties at Mount Kumgang, freeze privately owned real estate inside the area and expel all employees working on the private properties. North Korea said it may claim ownership of the seized assets or turn them over to a new tourism business partner.

The measure was seen as aimed at pressuring Seoul to resume the suspended mountain tour program, which had been a major source of foreign currency for Pyongyang.

Hyundai Asan's employees stationed at Mount Kumgang held a working-level meeting earlier Saturday with their North Korean counterparts there, according to the official. The North has not specified the exact schedule of the four-day process but said that the owners of the assets are to appear at 9 a.m. on Tuesday at the complex in Mount Kumgang as witnesses.

The five facilities to be seized include a family reunion center, funded and owned by the South Korean National Red Cross, as well as a fire station and a duty free shop. They also include a cultural center and a hot spring resort, both owned by Seoul's Korea Tourism Organization.

The once lucrative tourism program for the impoverished North was suspended in July 2008 after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean guard near a restricted area. Nearly 2 million South Koreans had visited the mountain resort since the tours began in 1998.

Seoul has stated that it will take "strong measures" against the North, citing the move as "in violation of international laws and of both the contracts between North Korea and our businesses and the agreements between the governments."

odissy@yna.co.kr
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