North Korean Silence Creates Gaps in Tourist Killing Probe

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25 July 2008

South Korean investigators have released what they call "interimfindings" in a probe of this month's shooting of a South Korean touristby North Korea's military. However,

amid the North's total refusal tocooperate in an investigation, serious information gaps remain. AsVOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul, South Korea's anger over theNorth's intransigence may be rising.

South Korean investigatorsare still having trouble verifying fundamental details in the shootingdeath of South Korean tourist Park Wang-ja.

The 53-year-old Parkwas shot twice by North Korea's military two weeks ago during her visitto the North's Kumgang mountain resort. The area is managed by SouthKorea as a long-term project to improve inter-Korean relations.

NorthKorea shared some information about the shooting with Hyundai Asan, theSouth Korean corporation that runs the resort but refuses anycooperation whatsoever with the South Korean government's probe.

Hwang Boo-gi, an investigator for the South's Unification Ministry, says there is a discrepancy in accounts over the killing.

Hesays the South estimates the shooting location to be about 200 metersaway from fences marking a restricted no-access area. That differs, hesays by the North's claim of a 300 meter distance.

North Koreasays Park crossed into the restricted area during a morning walk andran away when confronted by North Korean soldiers. She was shot in theback. Pyongyang says South Korea is to blame for the incident and hasdemanded an apology.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak hascalled the shooting "intolerable," and has suspended the tourismproject completely until North Korea cooperates in the probe. AlthoughSeoul is still permitting some travel to the North by private civicgroups, it is urging some of the groups to cancel their upcomingvisits.

With the Kumgang resort closed, North Korea is losingrevenues by the day and so is the Hyundai Asan corporation. Thecompany's president Yoon Man-jun has apologized for the incident.

He calls the shooting the most tragic incident to happen since the tours began, and says he feels personally sorry.

SeniorSouth Korean officials are now telling journalists the South maystiffen its policy toward the North even further soon, if North Koreacontinues to stonewall the investigation.  

They have notspecified their possible course of action, which they say they willtake at "an appropriate time." However, officials have hinted aseparate tour program at the North Korean city of Kaesong may also besuspended. A North-South joint industrial park near Kaesong is seen,for now, as safe from the dispute over the shooting probe.


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