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South Korea denies North Korea's accusation of U.S. pressure

Pyongyang said the South refused to cooperate on the issue of resuming tourism because of the United States.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea denies North Korea's accusation of U.S. pressure
Tours of North Korea’s Mount Kumgang Tourist Region stopped when a South Korean tourist was fatally shot in July 2008, but North Korea is calling for a resumption of the program. Photo by Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock

SEOUL, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- North Korea's claims that the South is buckling under U.S. pressure to not resume tourism in the Mount Kumgang region are not true, a South Korean official said Wednesday.

Pyongyang's KCNA had stated Tuesday that Seoul was responsible for the breakdown in talks that ended without a joint statement, and according to the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, "South Korean authorities, by creating conflict among a unitary people and a conspiracy, have given rise to a hopeless legacy, worse than were the North-South talks not held."

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North Korea also said its representatives proposed the resumption of tourism to the Mount Kumgang region, and the expansion of civic exchange, including the continuation of North-South family reunions.

But according to Pyongyang's spokesman, South Korea raised "issues of no help at all" and created "artificial difficulties and obstacles." More specifically, South Korea raised the issue of the North's nuclear weapons program and refused to speak of the Mount Kumgang project, North Korea said.

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North Korea's committee also had claimed the South had said Seoul needs a U.S. go-ahead to restart the Mount Kumgang tourism project.

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South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said Wednesday the North's statements are not true, South Korean outlet Money Today reported.

"There was no discussion of the Mount Kumgang tourism issue between North and South," Jeong said, adding that during a preliminary discussion, Seoul's representatives called for the resolution of outstanding issues first, before other discussions are pursued.

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Jeong said North Korea insisted to the South's Hwang Boo-gi, South Korea's vice minister of unification, that the tourism project be restarted "unconditionally," and Seoul's delegates had disagreed.

In 2008, a South Korean tourist to Mount Kumgang was fatally shot after wandering into a restricted zone.

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