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Koreas Open Talks on Tourism

October 3, 2001

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ A South Korean delegation left Wednesday for talks in North Korea about tourism, including a proposal to build a cross-border road.

A three-member South Korean government delegation, accompanied by 15 support personnel and eight reporters, left by ship for the three-day talks at the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort.

Under a $942 million deal, South Korea’s Hyundai group launched an expensive cruise tour _ an average of $500 for a three-day tour _ to the resort in 1998 aimed at South Korean tourists. The project soon ran into trouble with fewer tourists than expected, and road access through the heavily armed border has been proposed to salvage the project.

``The talks will aim to conclude discussion on the proposed opening of overland access to the mountain,″ said Vice South Korean Unification Minister Kim Hyung-ki.

Other items on the agenda include a North Korean promise to designate the resort area as a special tourism zone where investment and other business activities by South Korean companies are free, he said.

No formal talks were scheduled for Wednesday, South Korean officials said. Delegates were to hold informal contacts to try to set procedural details for full talks on Thursday, they said.

The Koreas are in a state of conflict, with their three-year war in the early 1950s ending in an uneasy armistice, not in a peace treaty.

The tourism talks were a key part of agreement reached at Cabinet-level talks in mid-September. The Cabinet-level talks were the first inter-Korean governmental contacts in six months. Inter-Korean governmental contacts had been suspended since March because of tension between North Korea and the United States.

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