SKorea trying to scuttle NKorea's tour program

AP News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2011 4:04 AM
SKorea trying to scuttle NKorea's tour program

South Korea is asking foreign governments to ignore North Korea's push to open a tourist resort the Koreas once ran jointly to international investors.

The Koreas operated tours at the North's scenic Diamond Mountain for a decade until 2008, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the cash-strapped North until the tours were suspended over the fatal shooting of a southern tourist by a North Korean soldier.

The North now wants to develop the resort with international investors after seizing South Korean assets there. This month, the North invited potential Chinese investors and foreign journalists to the resort.

Seoul's Unification Ministry said Thursday that South Korean overseas diplomats have started asking foreign governments to keep their citizens from investing and participating in North Korean tours.

According to the ministry, South Korean tour operator Hyundai Asan invested $200 million in the resort while other companies made an investment of $120 million. The South Korean government also built roads, a fire station and a facility for family reunions at the resort.

Earlier this year, the North seized South Korean properties and kicked out all South Korean personnel from the resort in anger over Seoul's refusal to resume cross-border tours. Seoul said a joint investigation into the 2008 shooting must first be allowed and that the North should formally guarantee tourist safety.