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Koreas to discuss troubled resort

SEOUL (AFP) -- North Korea has agreed to hold talks with South Korea to settle a dispute over Seoul-owned buildings at a jointly run resort which have been seized by the communist country, officials said Monday.

The communist North had set a deadline of Wednesday for final discussions about the properties at the Mount Kumgang resort, which is in North Korea and was supposed to have been a symbol of warmer ties.

The two sides will visit the resort on Wednesday for talks, the South's unification ministry said.

North Korea had threatened to take unspecified legal steps to dispose of the buildings unless the deadline was met.

Most of the properties, estimated to be worth about 300 billion won ($278 million), are owned by the South's Hyundai Asan, which developed the scenic mountain resort and once had a monopoly on tours to it.

Mount Kumgang opened in 1998 as a symbol of reconciliation and once earned the impoverished North tens of millions of dollars a year.

The South suspended tours by its people after a North Korean soldier shot dead a Seoul tourist who had strayed into a restricted military zone there in July 2008.

In protest at the refusal to restart the tours, the North later deprived Hyundai Asan of its monopoly over trips to the resort, where the company has invested millions of dollars.

Last year North Korea seized or sealed off several South Korean properties and warned last month it would dispose of them.
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