Kumgang talks go into five rounds

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Kumgang talks go into five rounds

The two Koreas met for the second time in two weeks regarding South Korean assets at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort, which Pyongyang has threatened to clear out to restart its tourism business.

The talks continued until late in the afternoon yesterday, but no agreements were reached.

“During five meetings throughout the day, North Korea demanded South Korea take its assets and leave if it refuse to comply to its demands,” said a Unification Ministry official in Seoul.

North Korean officials had demanded South Korea take part in its new plan to turn the mountain resort into an international tourism hub or it would sell or rent the South Korean assets to a third party, according to South Korean government sources.

A South Korean entourage of 14, comprised of five government officials, five contractors and four administrative workers, arrived at the resort around 10 a.m., yesterday.

Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said yesterday the team wanted to hear the North out on its plans for the mountain resort and the South Korean assets.

South Korea stopped the tours in July 2008 after a South Korean visitor was shot dead after wandering into a restricted area.

Pyongyang demanded on June 29 that South Korean contractors come to the North to “settle their belongings” by July 13, but Seoul requested the two parties talk first.

The first official meeting between the South Korean team and North Korean officials responsible for tourism at Mount Kumgang began at 11:45 a.m. and continued for an hour.

After breaking for lunch, the meeting commenced at 2:45 p.m. and went until 3:10. A separate meeting between North and South government officials began at 3:10 and ended 40 minutes later, according to the Unification Ministry. There were two additional meetings during the day, the ministry said.

North Korea said additional talks were possible before a deadline of July 29.

The first round of talks on June 29 ended in less than three hours as the North refused to meet with South Korean government officials.

The talks came several hours after a senior North Korean sports official expressed the country’s wishes to share the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Pyeongchang, Gangwon.

Jang Ung, a North Korean representative for the International Olympic Committee told reporters in Tokyo, where he was visiting, that it was “positive” for Asia to host its third Winter games.

“I hope so,” he answered when questioned on the possibility of the two Koreas jointly hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Jang also said the military and political situations between the two Koreas should be ironed out, “otherwise, they could influence the Olympics,” he said.

The South Korean government said yesterday it has no plans to co-host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“Our negotiations team is up there right now to solve an assets problem,” said Lee of the Unification Ministry. “This problem was the result of the killing of a South Korean tourist.”

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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