North Korea in a Tuesday statement strongly criticized South Korea for the breakdown of talks over the weekend.
The statement from the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) blamed Seoul’s position on the Mount Kumgang project, mentioning “Kumgang” 13 times in the text. It also blamed Seoul for proposing “trivial” issues such as a “model farm” and sending forestry experts to examine the trees at Kumgang for disease and damage from insects.
Seoul’s Ministry of Unification (MoU) stated that it tried to deal with the Mount Kumgang tourism issue, and suggested discussing detailed issues to prevent accidents.
“We proposed working-level talks from the standpoint of visitors’ safety, countermeasures to prevent accidents and the recovery of property rights,” MoU spokesperson Jeong Joon-hee told journalists in a Wednesday morning briefing.
Pyongyang’s statement highlighted that Mount Kumgang is a symbol of improved ties between the two Koreas, saying it used to be a military zone.
The statement argued that Seoul couldn’t resume the tour without the U.S.’s permission.
Jeong denied this.
“The Republic of Korea is an independent country. Please keep in mind, that unreasonable, distorted propaganda will undermine the trust of reporting,” Jeong said.
Previously, the MoU stated that North Korea tried to link tourism and the reunions of divided families as the main obstacles resulting in the breakdown of talks.
“Recently North Korea has been trying to attract investment to the Wonsan-Mount Kumgang region. The negotiations should be win-win, partly satisfying the counterpart’s interest. South Korea should have proposed something that North Korea is likely to accept,” Paik Hak-soon, senior researcher from the Sejong Institute told NK News.
Hyundai Asan launched the development of the tour zone in 1998 but the project fell apart in 2008. Since 2013, North Korea has attempted to attract foreign investment from China and has organized multiple presentations for investors.
South Korea has concentrated on an agenda including the environment, livelihood and culture, the DMZ Eco-Peace Park, a fundamental solution to the divided families’ issue and facilitation of communication at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
“For North Korea, regularizing the reunion events, the DMZ Eco-Peace Park and other small cooperation projects are only for South Korean domestic political interests,” Paik said, adding that Seoul could be more flexible. “For example, the divided families can go sightseeing together at Mount Kumgang during the reunion event.”
Speaking at a meeting at the National Assembly on Tuesday, Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo indicated that the human rights issue also disturbed the talks, saying that North Korea was sensitive over the human rights bill pending in the legislature.
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Featured Image: Kuryong Waterfall North Korea by Ray Cunningham on 2010-08-12 11:15:44