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the South is rejecting North Korea's demand for an apology over the incident

South Korea says tourist shooting by North 'wrong, unimaginable'

Jul 13, 2008

The South Korean government is condemning North Korea's fatal shooting of a tourist from the South near a special North Korean resort.

A statement issued Sunday by South Korea's main ministry for dealing with North Korea calls Friday's tourist shooting "wrong by any measure, unimaginable, and should not have occurred at all."

North Korea says the South is to blame for the incident, and is calling upon Seoul to make a formal apology.

Precise details of the shooting have not been confirmed, but North Korea says a soldier shot a 53-year-old South Korean woman after she wandered into a restricted military zone. She had been spending a holiday at the North's Kumgang mountain resort, built and funded by South Korea as a showcase of North-South reconciliation.

South Korea's Unification Ministry says the explanation given by North Korea so far is "not sufficiently convincing." The North has refused both to cooperate so far in an investigation of the shooting, and to give South Korean investigators access to where it took place.

The ministry's statement says the shooting "cannot be justified under any circumstances," and said failure by the North to allow a full fact-finding probe will discourage chances for inter-Korean dialogue.

North and South Korea remain technically at war, with only a 1953 armistice sustaining a tense peace along their border. Over the last ten years, South Koreans have begun to gain access to the North, but only to tightly controlled areas like the Kumgang resort.

Kim Byung-ki is an international security specialist at Korea University in Seoul. He says he thinks it is still possible to resolve this incident administratively.

"I think the minimum is, number one, North Korea should either through the open channels or through the closed channels explain to South Korea exactly what happened, I think that's very important. And, number two, if there is a person responsible for this, I think they [North Korea] should deal with this internally," Kim said.

In the latest sign of chilling relations between North and South Korea since the South's President Lee Myung-bak took office this year, North Korea has rejected Mr. Lee's call for renewed dialogue. Pyongyang has called President Lee a "traitor" on multiple occasions for taking a more conservative policy line on the North than his two predecessors.

Professor Kim says even though the shooting is serious, the tourism projects and other North-South cooperative ventures are probably not in danger.

"The current Lee Myung-bak government can't really afford to have another incident at the North-South level, at this moment, I don't think the Lee Myung-bak government is interesting in widening this incident to the other projects," Kim said.

Kim says that could change, however, especially if the South Korean public anger over the shooting intensifies in the days ahead.

South Korea says tourist shooting by North 'wrong, unimaginable'
S. Korean Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong, comforts family member of slain tourist / AP

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