중앙데일리

North to freeze Kumgang assets from tomorrow

북 “금강산 남측 당국 부동산 동결 내일 집행”
It also demands civic groups stop sending propaganda by balloons

Apr 12,2010
North Korea has told South Korea it would carry out its plan to freeze South Korean assets at Mount Kumgang tomorrow, and asked South Korean owners of those properties to travel to the resort the same day.

South Korea, however, said it would not comply with the request.

According to the Unification Ministry in Seoul, the North late Friday informed the Hyundai Group of South Korea that it would implement measures that were announced Thursday. Hyundai Asan, a Hyundai affiliate, handles Mount Kumgang tours in Seoul.

Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said, “We will not comply with the demand.”

On Thursday, the North targeted South Korean government-owned properties, including a visitors’ center for separated families, a fire station, a cultural center, a hot spring and a duty-free shop. The move was in response to the South’s reluctance to resume the tours, which have been suspended since July 2008 when a South Korean female tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier after venturing into a military zone.

The South has since demanded an official apology and safety assurances as preconditions for the tours’ resumption. The North, though, has countered that it had done enough and had unilaterally set April 1 as the starting date for the tours.

In late March, the North threatened to take “extreme steps” if the tours didn’t resume by April 1 but didn’t give further details. Analysts have suspected the North has grown more anxious to restart the tours this year because it is feeling the effects of international sanctions imposed following the North’s nuclear test last year. The North was raking in $30 million a year by hosting tourists.

The North on Saturday also threatened military action over South Korean activists’ criticism of its government.

The official Korean Central News Agency reported that the North’s military would take “decisive measures” unless the South “takes an understandable measure to discontinue the despicable psychological smear campaign and formally notifies the North side of it.”

The North was referring to South Korean activists’ sending of propaganda leaflets over the border by balloon.

In 2004, the two Koreas agreed to halt decades of propaganda campaigns against each other - the South in leaflets and the North in radio broadcasts over loudspeakers - as part of their reconciliation.

The North Korean report added: “Such foolish acts are a wanton violation and blatant challenge to the agreement reached between the two sides to stop all the propaganda activities against each other.”

The North also said it would “formally review” whether to implement the existing inter-Korean agreement on facilitation of cross-border trips for South Koreans.

Activists and North Korean defectors here have continued to send balloons into the North with criticisms of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. For instance, a defectors’ group named Fighters for Free North Korea this year sent 20,000 leaflets toward North Korea on Feb. 16, Kim’s birthday.

The North takes particular offense to criticism of Kim. But the South has previously said it has no legal ground to regulate activists, citing freedom of speech.

Seoul’s military had no immediate reaction to the North’s threat from Saturday. But the government claimed that it has complied with the 2004 agreement and that it hoped the propaganda issue doesn’t hinder the development of the inter-Korean relations.

A government official also said it was “regrettable” that the North was threatening to restrict cross-border trips.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article

면회소·소방서 등 1차 대상, “당국자 입회하라” 통지, 통일부선 “응하지 않겠다”



북한이 오는 13일 우리 정부 소유의 금강산 이산가족면회소와 소방서의 부동산을 동결하겠다며 관계 당국자의 입회를 요구했다.

천해성 통일부 대변인은 11일 “관광사업 북측 책임기관인 명승지종합개발지도국이 9일 오후 현대그룹에 이런 통지문을 보내왔다”며 “그러나 정부는 북측의 부당한 요구에 응할 계획이 없다”고 밝혔다. 북한은 1차 동결 대상에 정부 소유 두 시설과 한국관광공사의 문화회관·온천장·면세점을 올렸다. 관광공사는 “참석 여부를 검토 중”이라고 했지만 정부와 보조를 맞출 가능성이 크다. 북한은 지난달 25~31일 금강산 지역 내 남측 부동산 조사를 벌였고, 8일에는 정부와 관광공사 소유물에 대한 동결과 관리 인원 추방 방침을 발표했다.

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