A senior government official said Tuesday that North Korea’s nuclear programs and tours to Mt. Geumgang in the North ― the latter of which have been halted since last July ― are separate matters, indicating that South Korea has no intent to link the two.
His remark was construed as Seoul’s intention to soften its stance toward Pyongyang.
In a breakfast meeting with journalists at a restaurant in Sokcho, Gangwon Province, Vice Unification Minister Hong Yang-ho said that resumption of tours to Mt. Geumgang was not something to be discussed together with security issues.
Hundreds of South Koreans have gathered at the Mt. Geumgang resort for the second round of reunions of displaced families between the two Koreas.
“If we link the tourism to the nuclear program, there will be no areas that South and North Korea can work together on,” Hong said.
Previously, Seoul made it clear that it would be willing to move inter-Korean cooperation forward only when Pyongyang took steps toward denuclearization.
Hong reiterated that prerequisites for the resumption of the joint Mt. Geumgang tourism project include an apology for the killing of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier, laying out tighter safety measures for tourists and guaranteeing that there will be no such incident again in the future.
“South Korea has consistently expressed its willingness to resume the tourism when the above conditions are met. Therefore, I think now is the time for the North to respond to our call,” he said.
Seoul banned tours to the scenic mountain on the North’s East Coast after a female South Korean tourist was shot dead at Mt. Geumgang.