By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has offered to repair some worn-out facilities at North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort, but Pyongyang is insisting on its demand for the removal of all facilities built by the South, a unification ministry official said Tuesday.
The North has demanded the South tear down all facilities it had built at the mountain resort as part of a joint tourism project, saying the country will build a new international tourist destination of its own. It has also threatened to destruct them unilaterally unless Seoul takes action.
The demand was seen as an expression of Pyongyang's frustration amid few signs the project will resume anytime soon amid global sanctions on the North. The project was a source of hard currency for the impoverished North before its suspension in 2008.
In an effort to save the project, considered one of the most tangible symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation, the South offered to hold face-to-face talks about the issue, but the North has rejected the dialogue proposal.
Recently, the South has also offered to repair some resort facilities, rather than demolishing them.
"We have expressed our intention to repair them to the North," the unification ministry official told reporters. "Discussions are still under way. ... The North continues to demand the destruction of all facilities and wants discussions in writing."
On Monday, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said there is a need to repair 340 long-abandoned containers used as makeshift lodging at Mount Kumgang until a tour program to the North Korean mountain was suspended in 2008.
Kim made the remark in response to questions about a media report that South Korea offered to remove all of its facilities there, according to Pyongyang's demand. He did not mention whether Seoul delivered its intention to repair the containers to the North.
Launched in 1998, the Mount Kumgang tour program was regarded as a key symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation and economic cooperation until it was suspended in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was shot dead near by a North Korean soldier. About 2 million tourists visited the mountain as part of the program.
South Korea has sought face-to-face dialogue and proposed sending a delegation to review the status of resort buildings. The North has turned the offers down, insisting on holding negotiations in writing.
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