North Korea tells South to raze its buildings at flagship resort
Seoul (AFP) –
North Korea on Friday told Seoul to come and demolish buildings at a tourist resort that were constructed by South Korean companies, days after leader Kim Jong Un called them "unpleasant-looking" and ordered their replacement.
The flagship Mount Kumgang complex, on one of the peninsula's most scenic mountains, was once a symbol of economic cooperation between the two Koreas that drew hundreds of thousands of Southern visitors.
However tours came to an abrupt end in 2008 after a North Korean soldier shot dead a Southern tourist who strayed off the approved path, and Seoul suspended travel.
Pyongyang has long wanted to resume the lucrative visits, but they would now violate international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes.
The North made its latest demands in a note sent Friday to Seoul's unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations.
The message told South Korean officials to "come to the Mount Kumgang complex and dismantle (the Southern) facilities... on an agreed-upon date".
It also said that the two sides should discuss the matter by exchanging documents, not in face-to-face meetings, according to the ministry.
Earlier this week, Kim criticised the appearance of the buildings constructed by Southern companies including Hyundai Asan, according to North Korean state media.
Kim visited the resort, which opened in 1998, and lambasted the "shabby" buildings as "a hotchpotch with no national character at all", the official KCNA news agency reported Wednesday.
The leader instructed their removal and said new facilities would be built in their place, it said.
That announcement was a striking repudiation of what was once one of the two biggest inter-Korean projects, along with a now-shuttered industrial complex where Southern companies employed North Korean workers.
In response to the North's demands on Friday, unification ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min said his office was in "close consultation with relevant agencies".
"The government will draw up a creative solution... in light of the significance of the Mount Kumgang tour," he said.
Contact between the neighbours has stalled after the collapse of a February summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi.
Pyongyang has since repeatedly excoriated Seoul, saying it has "nothing to talk (about) any more" with the South.
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