Seoul offers talks with Pyongyang on joint project

TOKYO, South Korea offered Monday to hold working-level talks with North Korea about a long-suspended tour program at the North’s Mount Kumgang, after Pyongyang demanded Seoul remove all of its resort facilities from the mountain, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The North made the demand Friday, following up on leader Kim Jong-un’s directive that all South Korean-built facilities should be removed from the mountain resort and the North should build an international tourist zone of its own there.

On Monday, the South made a counterproposal calling for talks. “The government proposed that a working-level meeting be held between authorities (of the two sides) to discuss the issue raised by the North and the issue of Mount Kumgang tourism,” a Unification Ministry Spokesperson was quoted as saying in Seoul. The South did not fix a date for the proposed talks, only offering to meet at Mount Kumgang at a “convenient time,” according to the ministry.

“It is the government’s consistent position that all pending issues in inter-Korean relations should be resolved through dialogue and consultations,” the spokesperson said, stressing that it would hurt inter-Korean relations if the North takes a “unilateral measure” against the property rights of South Korean businesses.

In Friday’s message, the North demanded that the South come and take out all resort facilities on an agreed-upon date and said details can be discussed in writing, rather than face-to-face talks, in a demonstration of its hardline stance on the issue.

Launched in 1998, the tour program to the North’s mountain was regarded as a major inter-Korean cooperative project, but it was suspended in 2008 after a female tourist was shot and killed by a North Korean guard.

Source: Kuwait News Agency