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(LEAD) S. Korea open to consultations with N. Korea over Mount Kumgang facilities, Cheong Wa Dae says

North Korea 14:13 October 23, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more remarks, background info, other details; CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- Cheong Wa Dae said Wednesday that South Korea will scrutinize North Korea's position in connection with the suspended joint Mount Kumgang tour program and have relevant consultations, if necessary, responding prudently to Kim Jong-un's call for the removal of all South Korean assets there.

What should be done first is to "clearly analyze what position North Korea has and its plan, going forward," a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters.

If there's any chance to "have consultations," the two sides will be able to do so, the official added.

Earlier in the day, Pyongyang's state media reported that the country's leader visited the tourist zone along the east coast, where South Korea-funded hotels, a cultural center and other facilities remain unused with no meaningful inter-Korean exchanges underway.

South Koreans' tours of the scenic area came to a halt in 2008 after one of its citizens was shot dead by a North Korean security guard during a trip there. The tourist district had since served as the venue for occasional reunions of families living on the other side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Kim ordered the elimination of all the "unpleasant-looking facilities of the south side" with an agreement with the related authorities of the two Koreas and the construction of "new modern" ones unique to North Korea, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). He was quoted as saying that those areas are a legacy of the "mistaken policy of the predecessors" who only sought benefits without making independent efforts to develop the site.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) talks with an official during his visit to Mount Kumgang on the east coast in this photo released by the state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 23, 2019. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The Cheong Wa Dae official said it's premature to talk about whether other pending issues, including the cross-border spread of African swine fever, could be discussed as well.

Asked if Cheong Wa Dae expects such a session, if held, to help produce a breakthrough in inter-Korean relations, the official said, "I won't deny it."

With regard to stalled denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington, the official stressed, "There are a considerable number of people who say it's important to have continued consultations and maintain the will for negotiations, like right now," while others may have a gloomy outlook.

On Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in reaffirmed his pursuit of a "peace economy" aimed at promoting inter-Korean economic cooperation and bringing lasting peace to the peninsula, as he delivered an annual budget speech at the National Assembly.


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