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N. Korea to Stop Inter-Korean Tour, Land Passage

Posted November. 26, 2008 20:05,   


North Korea announced yesterday that it will suspend from Dec. 1 inter-Korea tourism in Gaesong and block overland passage of the border by all South Korean civilian groups and business people.

The North will also stop the operation of inter-Korean railways linking South Korea`s Munsan and North Korea`s Bongdong, close the Corp of the Gaesong Industrial Council, and expel all South Korean staff.

Pyongyang also urged Seoul by late this month to halve the number of South Koreans working for the Gaesong Industrial District Management Committee and staff at convenience facilities such as restaurants.

If North Korea implements these measures as planned, it could mean the suspension of all inter-Korean joint projects except the Gaesong complex.

North Korea sent seven notifications on this to people such as the chairman of the management committee and officials of the (South) Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency and Hyundai Asan Corp.

In the notification sent to Hyundai Asan, the operator of tours to Gaesong, the North said, "Staff and vehicles of Hyundai Asan`s partners including Songak Plaza and other builders will be cut around 70 percent."

In a notice sent to companies doing business in the Gaesong complex, Pyongyang said, "Given the economic difficulty of smaller companies, we will allow them to continue their business activities in the district. Key management staff among South Korean workers stationed in the district are exempt from the ban on overland passage of the Military Demarcation Line by South Koreans."

The North apparently made this announcement to suggest the Gaesong complex will keep running as usual.

"The border will be shut down, but if certain materials should inevitably get passed through, we`ll thoroughly examine the materials and drivers," it said.

North Korea said these measures are the "first" step, adding, "If South Korea declines to follow our measures and causes more trouble, strong legal sanctions will be imposed."

The South Korean government expressed regret over the North`s measures and urged Pyongyang to withdraw them.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul said, "Overland passage and economic cooperation projects have contributed to improving inter-Korea relations. North Korea`s measures to limit and suspend this improvement are a significant setback that hurt inter-Korean relations."

In a statement, the ministry said, "If the North unilaterally implements its measures, it could harm agreements signed by the two Koreas. We strongly urge North Korea to withdraw its decision."

kyle@donga.com jin0619@donga.com