S. Korea agrees to hold talks on resuming cross-border tours

Mount Kumgang is the first major inter-Korean cooperation project, and thousands of South Koreans visited the Seoul-funded resort between 1998 and 2008. -- PHOTO: HOE PEI SHAN
Mount Kumgang is the first major inter-Korean cooperation project, and thousands of South Koreans visited the Seoul-funded resort between 1998 and 2008. -- PHOTO: HOE PEI SHAN

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea agreed on Tuesday to hold talks with North Korea about resuming tours to a scenic resort in the North after a five-year suspension.

The South, however, called for discussions on September 25 in response to the North's proposal for dialogue this week about reopening its Kumgang mountain resort.

Seoul's unification ministry said the two sides should take "a cautious approach" to the issue while focusing on resuming a separate temporary family reunion programme.

Mount Kumgang was the first major inter-Korean cooperation project, and thousands of South Koreans visited the Seoul-funded resort between 1998 and 2008.

The South suspended the tours - an important source of hard currency for the impoverished North - after a North Korean soldier in 2008 shot dead a female tourist from the South who strayed into a restricted zone.

In response, the North scrapped a deal with the resort's developer - Seoul's Hyundai Asan company - and seized its properties there.

On Sunday, the North proposed holding a meeting on the resort, saying it could discuss the safety of tourists and the issue of seized properties.

The North's proposal came amid tentative signs of a thaw in relations after months of high military tensions triggered by the North's nuclear test in February.

Pyongyang and Seoul agreed last week to work together to reopen their shuttered Kaesong joint industrial complex.

They also agreed to talk about resuming reunions for families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.