The government proposed to North Korea a meeting of working-level officials to discuss how to handle issues related to tourism on Mount Geumgang, a joint project between the two Koreas which has been suspended for three years, officials here said Monday.
“We have delivered North Korean authorities a notice proposing a meeting of working-level officials at the Mount. Geumgang resort on July 29,” a spokesperson from South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.
The proposal comes at the heels of a rare meeting between chief nuclear negotiators of the two sides in Bali last week, where they agreed to work together to reopen the six-nation dialogue to disarm the nuclear-ambitious North.
The top priority for Seoul at the proposed meeting is protecting assets belonging to South Koreans, but the two sides could discuss possible resumption of the tourism program, the ministry official said.
The program, which sends South Korean tourists to the North Korean scenic mountain, started in 1998 as a symbol of reconciliation but came to a halt on July 11, 2008, after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier.
Consequently, some 300 billion won ($280 million) worth of facilities owned by dozens of South Korean companies ― restaurants, a fire station, a cultural center, a hot spring, hotels and a golf range ― have been out of use for three years.
Also, in a move indicative of the South’s changing mood toward North Korea, Seoul earlier in the day approved the provision of flour to the impoverished North by South Korean aid groups, the first such endorsement since the North attacked a border island in November.
Following the green light, some 400 tons of flour will be delivered this week to North Korea’s orphanages, kindergartens and hospitals, the aide groups said.
“We plan to provide a total of 2,500 tons ― 300 to 400 tons each week,” said an official at the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, one of the groups.
The government will consider approving plans of similar size by civic groups, but has no plan to resume aide on a governmental level, the ministry official said.
By Lee Sun-young (firstname.lastname@example.org