South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said Monday hundreds of South Korean containers have been left neglected on Mount Kumgang in North Korea. File Photo by Yonhap
Dec. 2 (UPI) -- South Korea's unification ministry tacitly acknowledged North Korea's demands for the demolition of South Korean facilities in Mount Kumgang, where South Korean tourists were allowed to visit in large numbers from 1998 to 2008.
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul suggested for the first time on Monday that Seoul is not turning down some of North Korea's demands for the removal of South Korea-built facilities at the resort, local paper Hankook Ilbo reported.
According to Kim, there are 340 containers being used as "temporary accommodations." They were placed at the location as an interim solution to the "problem of accommodations" at the North Korean resort for visiting South Koreans.
The containers may have been "left unmanaged" after 2008, when a South Korean tourist was fatally shot by North Korean soldiers.
"North Korea could understand [our intention] of reorganization to mean demolition," the South Korean official said. He added there is a need to repair the facilities, according to Yonhap.
Kim, who recently returned from a trip to Washington, also reportedly requested a sanctions exemption for Mount Kumgang projects during his meeting with U.S. Special Envoy on North Korea Stephen Biegun, South Korean news service EDaily reported Monday.
North Korea has rejected cooperation with the South on the resort since October, when Kim Jong Un ordered the demolition of "unpleasant-looking" South Korea-built facilities at the resort. The resort was built during the rule of his father, Kim Jong Il, who accepted various donations from the South.
Kim Jong Un has also stressed the "self-reliant" development of tourist attractions in North Korea at sites like the Wonsan-Kalma tourism zone. On Monday Kim Yeon-chul said the South would discuss cooperation on Wonsan-Kalma "if the conditions and circumstances are in place."
"What we are proposing is not specific," he said.
The South Korean official also said working-level talks between the United States and North Korea "must take place" before the end of the year.
Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump last met in June at the border village of Panmunjom. North Korea has refused to cooperate on full denuclearization and has engaged in more than a dozen round of provocations since the meeting.