Meeting on Mt. Kumgang tourism set

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Meeting on Mt. Kumgang tourism set

The two Koreas will meet next Monday to discuss resumption of suspended tourism to the Mount Kumgang resort north of the border. It’s not clear, however, just who will represent each side. The Unification Ministry in Seoul announced yesterday the North sent a dispatch agreeing to the South’s earlier proposal to hold talks on Mount Kumgang on Feb. 8. On Jan. 14, the North first suggested that the two sides meet for the discussions on Jan. 26 at Mount Kumgang.

But on Jan. 25, the South countered the offer and said they should instead meet on Feb. 8 in Kaesong, just north of the border.

Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said the dispatch, written by the North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, said that the committee would send three representatives to the talks.

The committee is a nongovernmental body that handles inter-Korean cooperation projects, though the North has said it is “an authoritative organ that represents the Workers’ Party and the government.”

In response, the ministry wrote to the United Front Department of the ruling Workers’ Party that it wanted “a responsible government official” as the head of the North’s delegation to discuss safety assurances for South Korean travelers, Chun said.

The Mount Kumgang tours were suspended in July 2008 when a South Korean female tourist was shot to death by a North Korean soldier after entering a restricted military zone. The South has since demanded that the North guarantee the safety of South Koreans and prevent a recurrence of the incident. “The basic stance of our government is that all final discussions on assuring safety for our citizens at Mount Kumgang must be done at the government level,” Chun explained. “It would be inappropriate to mention what we feel would be the responsible delegation from the North.”


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

“대화채널 관으로 바꾸라” 남측 제안 무시한 북한


북한이 8일 개성에서 금강산·개성관광 재개를 위한 실무회담을 개최하자는 우리 정부 제안에 호응해 왔다.

천해성 통일부 대변인은 3일 “북한이 2일 오후 판문점 연락관 채널을 통해 우리 제의에 ‘동의한다’는 입장을 알려 왔다”고 밝혔다. 북한은 ‘조선아시아태평양평화위원회’(위원장 김양건) 명의로 전통문을 보내왔고 “회담에 아태(아태평화위) 일꾼을 단장으로 한 3명의 대표를 파견하겠다”고 밝혔다.

이는 관광객 신변안전 보장 등은 당국 간에 논의해야 한다는 정부 입장과 차이가 난다. 현인택 통일부 장관은 지난달 25일 김양건 노동당 통일전선부장 앞으로 보낸 전통문에서 아태평화위가 아닌 북한 당국이 회담에 나설 것을 촉구한 바 있다.

천 대변인은 “3일 북한에 재차 전통문을 보내 ‘책임 있는 당국자가 대표로 나와야 한다’는 점을 강조했다”고 말했다. 1994년 설립 당시 아태는 ‘민간 기구’임을 밝혔으나 최근에는 우리 정부에 당국 성격임을 강조하고 있다고 통일부 관계자는 전했다.
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