Koreas to hold talks next week about resuming tourism


SEOUL — North and South Korea will hold talks next week about resuming tourism projects in the communist state if Seoul’s conditions for the meeting are met, officials said Wednesday.

The tours to the Mount Kumgang resort and the historic city of Kaesong earned the sanctions-hit North tens of millions of dollars a year until they were halted in 2008 amid worsening relations.

South Korea suspended the trips after the North’s army shot dead a Seoul housewife at Mount Kumgang in July that year. She had strayed into a poorly marked closed military zone while on a stroll.

The North last month proposed talks on restarting the tours and the South’s unification ministry said the two sides had agreed to meet next Monday.

But spokesman Chun Hae-Sung said the South was insisting that the North’s delegation include senior officials who could give safety guarantees for visitors.

The North, which proposed sending three delegates from a lower-level body, has not yet responded to the request for a senior official.

The Mount Kumgang tours have earned about 487 million dollars in fees for the North since they began in 1998. Cross-border visitors could also previously take day trips to Kaesong city just across the heavily fortified frontier.

Meanwhile, North Korea said it would allow thousands of South Korean Buddhists to visit a temple at the Kumgang resort in March, the unification ministry said.

“North Korea welcomed our trip, which has been pushed to activate an exchange of Buddhists between the two Koreas,” the South’s largest Buddhist group, the Chogye order, said in a statement.

The ministry, however, said it had yet to approve the trip.