North Korea talks hinge on route

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North Korea talks hinge on route

The government reportedly will look to resume talks with North Korea in hopes of convincing the North to permanently open the proposed overland route linking Mount Geumgang with Pyeongyang, a Blue House official said Tuesday. The North suggested opening the route on a temporary basis in a meeting Saturday with Kim Yoon-kyu, president of Hyundai Asan Co.

And Unification Minister Hong Soon-young said, "The government is considering becoming an operator of tours to Mount Geumgang."

"Once Hyundai Asan and North Korea's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee agree on the exact course of the overland route and on the fee the company will pay to operate its tours, the government will propose a new round of talks with Pyeongyang," said the Blue House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"If the talks do take place, we will propose that the inland travel course continue to operate even after the North's Arirang Festival," the official said.

Mr. Kim, the Hyundai executive, on Monday told Unification Ministry officials in Seoul that Pyeongyang proposed inviting South Korean tourists to Mount Geumgang to travel by bus from Hyundai's resort at the mountain to Pyeongyang for the festival, which is to run from late April to the end of June. The trip would take roughly nine hours.

The Blue House official said the proposed Mount Geumgang-Wonsan-Pyeongyang overland route has positive ramifications for stalled inter-Korean relations. But he added that the government would leave the decision to make the trip to the Arirang Festival up to the individual tourists. Official government dialogue between the two Koreas broke down in November, when the sixth inter-Korean ministerial talks ended abruptly without an agreement.

The official added that Seoul will go ahead with financial support for the unprofitable Mount Geumgang tourism project regardless of whether or not the North opens the overland route.

by Chun Young-gi

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