North rejects request for Kumgang talks

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North rejects request for Kumgang talks

Despite the sense of optimism that has developed recently over inter-Korean relations, Pyongyang has squashed that mood as it has refused Seoul’s request for talks over its Mount Kumgang assets on Friday.

Even as a North Korean envoy is in the United States for talks, seen as a possible breakthrough toward the restart of six-party talks, pessimism settled in, with Seoul officials saying it was “regretful” over Pyongyang’s refusal to talk.

“We feel it is regretful that North Korea has unilaterally demanded the settling of South Korean assets and refused the South’s request for talks,” said Lee Jong-joo, spokeswoman of the Ministry of Unification yesterday.

The comment came after North Korea sent a statement addressed to the Unification Ministry, followed by a North Korean report of a press conference held by North Korean authorities in charge of the Mount Kumgang tourism resort on Tuesday evening.

The statement had demanded Seoul officials bring private contractors to the mountain resort with them if they were to engage in working talks this week. “If South Korea does not bring in the contractors or tries to use the working talks to block negotiations to settle the assets,” the North’s statement said, “we do not need the talks and will firmly go ahead with legally handling South Korean real estate assets on Mount Kumgang.”

Pyongyang has said that the assets issue must be handled before working talks are held between government officials of the two Koreas, which a ministry official said would “make things difficult” for talks to be held on Friday. July 29 is the deadline set by North Korea for South Korean contractors who hold assets on Mount Kumgang to come and organize their holdings.

North Korea wants the South’s business owners who have invested in the Mount Kumgang tourist resort to agree to its new tourism law or give up their assets altogether.

The Unification Ministry did not have an immediate countermeasure prepared yesterday in response to the statement, but Lee said the government was contemplating several possible steps they could take. A ministry official said the ministry is in negotiations with related bureaus to come up with a solution that will prevent further falling out between the two Koreas. “We cannot agree to the North’s one-sided deadline or process,” said Lee to reporters yesterday. “The Mount Kumgang law [North Korea] has drawn up has content that invades the rights of our businesses.”


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

한글 관련 기사 [연합뉴스]

北, 남북 금강산 실무회담 사실상 거부

`금강산 재산정리 진행될 경우 실무회담` 통지


북한이 금강산 관광사업 협의를 위해 남북 당국간 실무회담을 열자는 통일부의 제안을 사실상 거부했다.

26일 통일부에 따르면 북한은 이날 오후 통일부에 보낸 통지문에서 "남측이 민간 기업인을 데리고 오는 조건에서 당국 실무회담을 개최하는데 동의한다"고 밝혔다.

북한은 이어 "만약 남측이 기업인을 데리고 오지 않거나 재산정리를 위한 협상을 방해하기 위한 목적에 당국 실무회담을 이용하려 한다면 당국회담은 필요 없으며 금강산지구 남측 부동산에 대한 법적 처분을 단호히 실행할 것"이라고 강조했다.

또 "남측이 협력적 태도로 나와 재산 정리사업이 원만히 진행될 수 있게 되는 경우 당국 실무회담도 열고 금강산 관광 문제도 협의할 것"이라고 밝혔다.

북한이 통일부의 당국간 회담 제안에 기업인 동행을 요구하고 나선 것은 남측 재산 정리를 통해 우리 기업의 금강산 관광 독점권을 폐지한 특구법을 강행하겠다는 의지를 보인 것으로 분석된다.

특히 북한이 `선(先) 재산정리, 후(後) 당국 실무회담`의 입장을 밝혀 29일 남북 당국간 실무회담 개최도 불발될 가능성이 높다는 전망이다.

통일부 당국자는 기자들과 만나 "북한은 여전히 자신들의 특구법에 따라 일방적인 재산 정리를 주장하고 있다"면서 "이런 조치는 우리가 받아들일 수 없고 우리가 제안한 실무회담도 29일 열리지 못하게 된 것으로 봐야 한다"고 말했다.

통일부는 관계부처 협의를 통해 향후 대응방안을 모색할 예정이다.

앞서 통일부는 전날 금강산 관광사업과 관련된 당면 문제를 협의하기 위한 남북 당국간 실무회담을 29일 개최할 것을 북한에 제의한 바 있다.

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