Seoul on Monday renewed its calls for North Korea to take steps to ensure the safety of sightseers and restore the frozen assets of South Korean businesses before restarting tours to Mt. Geumgangsan.
In its latest unification white paper, the government also displayed a willingness to undertake major infrastructure projects in the underdeveloped country if the Kim Jong-un regime makes progress in its denuclearization commitment.
“The government’s position is that for the Geumgang tour to restart, the safety issue for our citizens should be resolved first of all,” the 320-page report stated.
“There must be definite measures to safeguard the personal safety between responsible authorities from both sides to prevent another such incident, and the corporate property rights will have to be recovered.”
Once touted as a symbol of cross-border rapprochement, the tour to the scenic mountain resort on the North’s east coast was launched in 1998 but suspended after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier in July 2008 when she strolled into an off-limits area.
The cash-strapped North has been repeatedly calling for a resumption of the project. But Seoul has remained steadfast in its demand for an apology and measures to preclude a relapse and to ensure the safety of its citizens.
Other lingering obstacles have included concerns about a suspected diversion of the program’s revenues for military and other undesired uses.
Last summer, the two Koreas attempted to hold a dialogue on restarting the tours but talks did not materialize amid persistent inter-Korean tension.
“Given the North’s responsibility for the incident, it can resolve the problem by taking responsible steps so that we will begin looking into the resumption issue,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told a news briefing.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)