|Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae attends a session of the parliamentary committee on inter-Korean relations on Wednesday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)|
South Korea called on North Korea Wednesday to rescind all its decisions to unlawfully confiscate assets at the Mount Geumgangsan resort after tours there were suspended nearly five years ago.
All operations at the scenic resort on North Korea’s east coast were halted after a North Korean guard shot dead a South Korean tourist in 2008.
At the time, Seoul insisted that the communist country give assurances that such a tragedy will not recur and called for firm measures to ensure the safety of South Korean tourists.
The North balked at offering official government-to-government guarantees, and it took measures to confiscate assets built with South Korean money at the resort. They also passed a special law that strips Hyundai Asan Corp.’s exclusive operating right over the resort.
Seoul does not directly own property at Geumgangsan, but state-run Korea National Tourism Organization and the Korea National Red Cross have assets there.
In a news briefing, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said that in order for the talks aimed at restarting the tours to make headway, the North must show its willingness through action.
“The North must take responsible actions of canceling its measures to freeze and confiscate South Korean assets,” the official said, pointing out that those unlawful measures should be repealed immediately.
He emphasized that while Seoul never recognized the unilateral actions taken by the North as binding or legitimate, it will bring the matter up when they meet on Oct. 2.
The official added that because Seoul maintains that resumption of tours should remain independent of the family reunions, arbitrary actions taken by the North in regards to South Korean property will not in any way affect efforts to arrange family reunions.
“The two issues are clearly separate, with reunions being a humanitarian concern,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ministry said that once a meeting of the joint management committee for the Gaeseong Industrial Complex is arranged as outlined by the Aug. 14 agreement, it will raise issue with the current ban on the use of communication, movement, and customs and investment protection.
The agreement opened the way for normalization of the factory park located in the North that has been closed since early April. The committee will give Seoul an equal say in running the industrial zone and prevent the North from closing it down again in the future.
Also on Wednesday, an advance team of technicians and administrators crossed over into North Korea to check the Mount Geumgangsan resort that will be used to hold reunions of families on Sept. 25-30.
The ministry said the 55-person team made up of officials from the Korea National Red Cross, Hyundai Asan Corp., and technicians from power and communication companies are at Mount Geumgangsan.
The ministry official said the team crossed the military demarcation line that separates the two Koreas at 9 a.m. and are expected back later in the day. The team will also visit the North again on Thursday. (Yonhap News)