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Seoul to discuss assets at N.K. resort this week

South Korea is likely to discuss with companies this week how to deal with North Korea’s request that Seoul promptly deal with the issue of disposing its assets in the North’s scenic mountain resort.

The two Koreas had launched a joint tour project at the North’s Mount Geumgang in 1998 as a symbol of reconciliation.

The tours, which had been one of impoverished Pyongyang’s main sources of income, came to a halt in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier when she purportedly strayed into an off-limits military zone.

Restaurants, a fire station, a cultural center, a hot spring, hotels, a golf range, duty free shops and other facilities owned by dozens of South Korean companies have been unused for nearly three years. They were seized by the North in April last year.

Pyongyang had announced it would dispose of all its seized South Korean property in the latest show of hostility toward its southern rival.

Companies should visit the mountain by the end of this month to discuss the issue, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported last Friday.

“We plan to meet with company owners this week to gather their opinion,” an official at Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which specializes in North Korea affairs, said on the customary condition of anonymity.

The government may or may not accompany company representatives as they visit the North to discuss the issue, the official added.

Pressed for outside aid and foreign currency, North Korea has been seeking ways of resuming the stalled tours. As South Korea remains lukewarm, the communist state threatened to take away South Korean company Hyundai Asan’s exclusive tourism rights to the resort and develop the area for international tours.

By Shin Hae-in  (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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