The South Korean government has proposed holding working-level talks with North Korea in response to the regime’s plan to abolish the South’s facilities at the Kumgangsan tourist resort, the Unification Ministry said Monday.
The offer was made through the joint liaison office in the North’s border town of Kaesong after the regime notified the South that it would tear down the latter’s facilities in the tourist zone in accordance with the orders of its leader Kim Jong-un, who wishes to overhaul the obsolete site and give it a modern look.
Kumgangsan tourist special zone (KCNA)
The Unification Ministry has underlined the need for sufficient consultations to resolve the issue rationally, as the North’s unilateral actions regarding a South Korean company’s property rights could damage inter-Korean relations and run counter to public sentiment.
“The government remains consistent in its position that all issues of inter-Korean relations should be resolved through dialogue and consultation,” Unification Ministry spokesperson Lee Sang-min said at a regular press briefing.
If the North accepts the meeting proposal, officials of the South Korean tour operator Hyundai Asan will accompany government officials to discuss a “new direction of development” for the project, Lee said.
According to the spokesperson, the ministry did not suggest a possible venue or time for the talks.
The tour program to Kumgangsan had been regarded as a major inter-Korean cooperation project, with the accumulated number of South Korean tourists standing at nearly 2 million since its launch in 1998.
Operations of the facilities, including hotels and a golf course, were suspended in 2008, when a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier, purportedly for entering a military zone. Tour programs have not resumed since.
In a notice sent Friday, North Korea sought to handle the issue through the exchange of documents, but Seoul decided to propose a working-level meeting in a bid to create an opportunity for dialogue amid a stalemate in inter-Korean relations.
“We will review various and diverse measures to solve the problem by considering the international situation and environment, inter-Korean consultation and national consensus,” Lee said.
Lee said the situation has changed compared to when the tour program started and when it was suspended, stressing that such circumstances should be comprehensively reviewed in devising new solutions for the inter-Korean project.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org