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S. Korea okays Hyundai Asan's visit for asset checks in N. Korea

2015/06/16 14:20

SEOUL, June 16 (Yonhap) -- The Unification Ministry said Tuesday it has approved requests by Hyundai Asan, a South Korean operator of an inter-Korean tour program, and its contractors to visit North Korea this week to check their assets at its scenic mountain resort.

The South has suspended a joint tour program at Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast following the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean solider at the resort. Hyundai Asan reportedly invested US$196 million in building facilities at the resort which opened in 1998.

The ministry said that officials from Hyundai Asan and two contractors will visit the North on Wednesday for a two-day stay in a bid to check their facilities ahead of the rainy season.

Hyundai Asan has examined their facilities in the North before, but this will mark the first time since late 2011 that the tour operator's contractors will be allowed to visit the North for such purpose.

"The approval was given to allow them to protect their business assets. The move does not mean any changes in the government's stance over its sanctions against North Korea," said a ministry official, asking not to be named.

Seoul-Pyongyang ties have been strained since 2010, when the South imposed sanctions banning economic and cultural exchanges following the North's torpedoing of a South Korean warship and its shelling of a border island in the same year.

Pyongyang has called for the resumption of the tour program, which served as one of the few legitimate revenue sources for the cash-strapped country.

The ministry has said that the North should take measures to guarantee the safety of South Koreans and ensure that similar incidents do not recur.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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