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Shooting Prompts Ban on Civilian Visits to N. Korea

Posted July. 24, 2008 09:09,   


The government will not allow a large group from the Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification to visit North Korea next month, a government source said yesterday.

Also canceled was a scheduled visit to the North next month by South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Tae-ho and a delegation.

The Lee administration is considering restricting large-scale visits by civic organizations of South Korea from next month if the North fails to cooperate with the investigation into the July 11 killing of a South Korean tourist.

Seoul also wants Pyongyang to come up with security measures for South Korean visitors following the shooting death of Park Wang-ja.

An official of the unification council said yesterday, “The council initially agreed with the North to allow 128 South Korean officials to visit for four days from July 11. Due to the shooting at Mount Geumgang, we had to postpone the trip to August 6-9. The (South Korean) Unification Ministry then told us we couldn’t go so we canceled the trip.”

A source from South Gyeongsang Province said, “The government has asked Governor Kim not to visit North Korea. It will be meaningless for the rest of our delegation to visit if he doesn’t go.”

Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon told a news briefing that the government has other plans though it will reconsider if groups apply to visit the North.

“The government will keep its principle of allowing South Koreans to visit the North if their visits help inter-Korean exchanges and do not run counter to the South`s social order,” he said. “The situation (following the shooting death) is far from ordinary. The government will seriously examine the situation to provide a final conclusion on the visit.”

“The government says North Korea should clarify the shooting incident and allow a South Korean investigation team to conduct an onsite probe.”

Seoul has thus linked the investigation of the shooting with the resumption of South Korean visits to the North.

Labor organizations such as the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union are said to have scheduled large-scale visits to the North next month. Conflict with Seoul seems inevitable if their visits are banned.

In 2004, both Koreas agreed to guarantee safety for South Korean tourists at Mount Geumgang and the Gaesong Industrial Complex. They failed, however, to reach the similar agreement for the visit to Pyongyang for exchanges and humanitarian aid, and visit to Mount Baekdu and Mount Myohyang.

A high-ranking Unification Ministry official said, “The North Korean government issued statements guaranteeing the personal safety of South Koreans and their safe return on invitation cards at the beginning of the Kim Dae-jung administration. But the statements disappeared after exchanges increased.”

“No comprehensive agreements have been made between the two Koreas over the safety of South Korean tourists in Pyongyang.”

Seoul’s investigation team will also announce today its interim probe results of the recent shooting death.