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S. Korea yet to decide on visit to joint mountain resort in DPRK

06-20-2011 16:43 BJT

SEOUL, June 20 (Xinhua) -- South Korea is undecided whether to send local business operators holding assets at a mountain resort area jointly developed with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the unification ministry said Monday.

Last week, the DPRK demanded South Korean companies visit Mount Kumgang near the inter-Korean border by the end of the month "to discuss the matter of disposing of the frozen and seized properties" owned by the firms.

The move poses the latest challenge to the cross-border relations, which remain at their lowest ebb following last year's an alleged torpedo attack on a South Korean warship and shelling of a border island by Pyongyang, which killed altogether 50 South Koreans.

Pyongyang, in a unilateral move last year, seized South Korean- owned assets worth 359.3 billion won (325.5 million U.S. dollars) at the mountain resort as Seoul continued to insist tours to the scenic mountain will not resume without a proper investigation into a shooting death of a South Korean tourist and assurances of safety.

Confiscated facilities include a Seoul-run reunion center for separated families in the two Koreas, a duty free shop, a hot spring, a culture center and a fire station.

The asset seizure was largely seen as an attempt by Pyongyang to protest what appeared to be Seoul's reluctance to reopen the lucrative business venture.

The tours, once a rare source of hard cash for Pyongyang, suspended in 2008 after a female tourist was shot dead after apparently venturing into an off-limit area.

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