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Seoul says inter-Korean talks needed to resolve Mount Kumgang issue despite Pyongyang's refusal

All Headlines 11:28 October 30, 2019

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- A face-to-face meeting is necessary to discuss the fate of a long-suspended joint tour program to Mount Kumgang on North Korea's east coast, the unification ministry said Wednesday, despite Pyongyang's refusal to hold such a meeting.

On Tuesday, North Korea turned down Seoul's offer to hold working-level talks, which was made in response to the North's demand that all South Korean-built facilities at the mountain resort be removed "on an agreed-upon date."

"For a mutual agreement, mutual consultation is necessary, and for consultation, we need to resolve the issue through a meeting," ministry spokesperson Lee Sang-in told a regular press briefing. "Our stance remains unchanged from that position."

North Korea's apparent threat to end the joint business came after its state media reported last week that the North's leader Kim Jong-un ordered the destruction of all "unpleasant-looking" facilities built by the South at the mountain resort.

The North made an official offer to discuss the issue in writing on Friday, but Seoul has said that all pending issues in inter-Korean relations should be resolved through dialogue and consultations.

Following the North's refusal to sit face-to-face with the South, the government is in talks with related business operators to draw up countermeasures, including whether to ask the North again for talks.

Launched in 1998, the tour program was regarded as a major inter-Korean cooperative project until it was suspended in 2008 after a female tourist was shot to death by a North Korean guard.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North's Kim agreed in September last year to resume the tour program and the Kaesong industrial park as soon as conditions are met. But the two projects have remained stalled amid little progress in the North's denuclearization negotiations with the United States.

This photo, released by South Korea's unification ministry on Oct. 29, 2019, shows a cluster of 34 pensions that were built by a South Korean company in the Mount Kumgang resort area on North Korea's eastern coast. The tourist facility opened in December 2003. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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