Fri, Mar 26, 2010 - Page 5 News List

S Koreans travel to North after threat to seize property

DEFINING MOMENTA survey of 1,703 young people in South Korea showed more than half did not know in what year the Korean War began


A group of 16 South Korean officials and businessmen yesterday attended a special meeting at a North Korean tourist resort, bowing to Pyongyang’s threat to seize their property there unless they showed up.

The sanctions-hit North is stepping up pressure on the Seoul government to lift its ban on tours to the scenic Mount Kumgang resort, which once earned the communist state tens of millions of dollars a year.

The North had said the businessmen must show up for what it calls a survey of their assets — or risk losing them.

It has also threatened to seek another business partner, rather than the South’s Hyundai Asan, unless Seoul lifts its ban on tours soon.

Hyundai Asan began the tours in 1998 as a reconciliation project in the divided nation. Nearly 2 million South Koreans traveled to Kumgang in the next decade.

The South suspended the trips after a soldier shot dead a Seoul housewife who had strayed into a poorly marked military zone in July 2008.

North Korean officials met the South Koreans and told them the survey of real estate assets would be carried starting Wednesday next week, a statement from Hyundai Asan said.

It quoted a North Korean official as saying the survey was a “step to implement the special measures” announced on March 4, when the North threatened to scrap all tourism agreements and find a new business partner at Kumgang.

The tours earned about US$487 million for the North over a decade, and Pyongyang is eager to restart the business.

The South says the two governments must reach firm agreements on the safety of visitors before tours can resume. It says the North should also permit a joint investigation into the shooting.

In other news, more than half of South Korea’s young people do not know what year the Korean War started, a nationwide survey conducted to mark the 60th anniversary of its outbreak showed.

The survey results, published yesterday by Chosun Ilbo newspaper, reveal widespread ignorance about the defining moment in the country’s history despite government plans to stage 44 commemorative events this year.

The Gallup poll surveyed 1,703 people aged over 13. Among teenagers, 62.9 percent did not know what year the war started and among those in their 20s, the figure was 58.2 percent.

Overall, 60.9 percent of respondents knew the war began in 1950, but the remainder either did not know or gave the wrong date.

Asked which country was responsible for it, 43.9 percent blamed North Korea; 16.9 percent blamed both Koreas; 11.5 percent Japan and China; 10.9 percent the US; 8.5 percent the Soviet Union; and 2.3 percent South Korea alone.

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