South Korea’s top official on cross-border affairs said Wednesday he would consider reopening tours to a North Korean resort despite high tensions.
But Unification Minister Yu Woo-Ik stressed that Pyongyang should take action first to guarantee the safety of tourists at its Mount Kumgang resort just across the border.
“We can positively consider opening dialogue with North Korea and resuming (cross-border) tours if it takes definite steps to guarantee the safety of tourists,” he told reporters.
“I hope working-level contact will be made,” he said, adding Seoul would keep open the door for dialogue with Pyongyang.
The resort, developed by the South’s Hyundai Asan company, opened in 1998 as a symbol of reconciliation between the two Koreas. It once earned the impoverished North tens of millions of dollars a year.
But Seoul suspended tours by its citizens after a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean housewife in July 2008. In response the North scrapped a deal with Hyundai Asan and seized its properties there.
Cross–border tension has been especially high since new leader Kim Jong-Un took over after his father Kim Jong-Il died in December.
Pyongyang since then has heaped insults on South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and other conservative leaders, branding them “human scum” attempting to raise tension for political gains.
It has threatened “sacred war” against Seoul for perceived insults during Pyongyang’s April commemoration of the centenary of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung.