North Korean Deadline Looms for Disposal of Mt. Kumgang Assets

Posted July 11th, 2011 at 1:56 am (UTC-5)
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South Korean investors are facing a Wednesday deadline to avoid the threatened disposal of almost $300 million in assets at a shuttered mountain resort in North Korea.

Pyongyang says it will dispose of the South Korean assets — which include hotels, restaurants and a golf course — if company officials do not visit the Mount Kumgang resort by July 13 to discuss how they should be handled. But a 12-member delegation of company and government officials was unable to have any substantive talks when they visited the resort late last month.

Officials at South Korea's Unification Ministry said Monday that North Korea still has not responded to the South's latest offer to meet at any time or place to discuss the issue. A spokesman warned the North against taking any unilateral action to dispose of the assets.

South Korea's Hyundai Asan and other companies poured millions of dollars into the resort at a time when the South Korean government was seeking to foster improved relations with Pyongyang. But South Koreans were barred from visiting the resort after a female visitor was fatally shot by a North Korean guard in 2008.

North Korea seized and sealed off several of the properties last year after the South refused to resume the tour packages because it said it had not received adequate safeguards from Pyongyang. The North is now seeking other investors, perhaps from China, to take over the resort.

South Korean media reported that last month's delegation to the resort was turned back because the North said it would talk only to businessmen, not government representatives.