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2008/07/24 11:26 KST


No Answer from North Korea on Joint Investigation of Tourist Shooting

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- As of July 23, North Korea has yet to make any official apology or response to the South's request for a joint investigation into the shooting death of a South Korean tourist near the North's scenic resort of Mt. Kumgang last week.

   North Korea officially accused the victim of trespassing in a restricted military area, and insisted that the responsibility for the incident rests entirely with South Korea.

   Park Wang-ja, 53, was shot dead by a North Korean soldier on July 11 at a beach near the Mt. Kumgang resort, the inter-Korean tour project on the North's east coast.

   The day after the incident, North Korea expressed regret over the death, but rejected Seoul's proposals to send a fact-finding team to the site.

   "A South Korean who came to tour Mt. Kumgang was shot to death by a serviceman of the (North) Korean People's Army at around 4:50 a.m. on July 11. The DPRK (North Korea) feels regretful at this," the spokesman for the Guidance Bureau for the Comprehensive Development of Scenic Spots said in a statement carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency.

   In response to the South's suspension of the inter-Korean tour program since July 12, the North called the decision a "challenge" to the North.

   In anticipation of a joint investigation of the incident, an eight-member South Korean government inspection team, including forensics experts, has been formed. The team has so far interviewed witnesses and examined closed circuit camera footage and photos of the scene taken by Hyundai Asan, the South Korean operator of the tour.

   On July 22, the South Korean government again called on North Korea to allow the South Korean inspectors to visit the scene for a joint investigation.

   The South Korean government plans to announce this week an interim report on the killing.

   "We're going to give a press briefing on the result of the investigation by government inspectors at the earliest possible date this week," Kim Ho-nyoun, spokesman for the Unification Ministry in Seoul, told reporters on July 23. "It could be on July 25," he said.

   "If the current situation is protracted, the North's image in international society will be significantly damaged," Kim added.

   "This is an incident in which a soldier shot dead an unarmed civilian woman in the back. We expect the North to recognize the severity of the issue and accept our demand for investigation as soon as possible," he stressed.

   Fortunately, some North Korean officials reportedly said the killing of a South Korean tourist by their soldier was unintentional and are worried about possible far-reaching repercussions on inter-Korean ties, according to South Korean civic group activists on July 21.

   "Many North Korean officials with the North's Council for National Reconciliation asked about the atmosphere in the South (following the incident). Some said the shooting was not premeditated," a civilian group official who recently returned from a trip to Pyongyang told Yonhap News Agency. He requested not to be named.

   Another South Korean relief group activist who returned from Pyongyang recently said the North Korean officials he met showed embarrassment and regret at the death.

   "Officials with the North's Council for National Reconciliation said it was not a premeditated incident and should not have happened," the activist said. He said the North Koreans expressed hope that the issue will be addressed as soon as possible and not influence inter-Korean relations.


N. Korean Construction Worker at Kaesong Complex Killed in Accident

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean construction worker was killed and four others were injured when a steel frame partially collapsed at the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong.

   The accident occurred shortly after 11 a.m. on July 16 at the construction site for the second factory of South Korea's Pyeongan textile company, the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee said on July 17.

   The injured workers were taken to a hospital in the industrial zone. An investigation was underway amid strong winds and torrential rain to determine what caused the collapse, company officials said.

   More than 1,300 North Korean workers have been working at Pyeongan's first factory in Kaesong to manufacture bed linens and fabric since August 2006. The company began constructing the second factory on 41,000 square meters of land early this year.