North, South Korea Talks End Without Agreement

By Reuters 14 December 2015

SEOUL — The first high-level talks between North and South Korea since an August agreement to end an armed confrontation across their border ended inconclusively on Saturday with no date set for a further meeting.

Hwang Boogi, South Korea’s chief delegate, told reporters after the talks that the two Koreas had not issued a joint statement.

Pyongyang pushed for the resumption of cross-border tours of the Mount Kumgang resort, just north of the demilitarized frontier, which were suspended in 2008 following the fatal shooting of a South Korean tourist, according to Hwang.

South Korea in turn weighed in on the issue of Korean War-separated families, calling for identification of separated families and letter exchanges.

“The North intensively raised the issue of the Mount Kumgang tourism…demanding an agreement to restart the tourism as a priority,” Hwang was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

South Korea sought guarantees from the North that the safety of visitors to the resort would be assured.

After the negotiations, Pyongyang blamed the South for the breakdown.

North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency said Seoul refused to discuss fundamental issues such as the resumption of the resort tours and stuck to “unfair assertions.”

The dispute over the Mount Kumgang tours, a once-lucrative source of cash for the impoverished North, is one of a series of unresolved issues that continue to sour relations on the peninsula.

The rivals, technically still at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, had all but cut ties since early 2010, when a South Korean navy ship was sunk by a torpedo that Seoul said was fired from a North Korean submarine. Pyongyang denies any involvement.

The South’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, was not immediately available for comment.

The meeting, which began on Friday, was the first forum for high-level discussions over a range of issues following an agreement in August that ended an armed standoff involving an exchange of artillery fire across the inter-Korean border.