North Korea has offered to discuss in writing with South Korea its decision to remove the South-built facilities at its Mount Kumgang tourist resort, the unification ministry said Friday.
The offer came days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered the removal of all South Korea-constructed buildings through an "agreement with the relevant unit of the south side," stressing the North should not rely on the South for a now-suspended joint tour program to the scenic mountain.
"North Korea sent a notice to the unification ministry earlier in the day, proposing to discuss the removal issue through exchange of documents," the ministry said in a message to reporters.
"The government will actively cope with the matter through close consultations with relevant organizations while placing top priority on protection of our people's property rights," it added.
On Wednesday, North Korea's state media reported that Kim criticized his father's policy for depending on South Korea in running tours to the mountain and gave instructions for the destruction of all the long-abandoned "unpleasant-looking" facilities and building of its own, signaling that it would push for a tour program without outside help.
He still said that South Koreans will be welcome to visit the mountain.
Launched in 1998, the tour program to the North's' mountain was regarded as a major inter-Korean cooperative project. It was suspended, however, in 2008 after a female tourist was shot to death by a North Korean guard.
South Korea invested a huge amount of money in launching the joint tour program at the scenic mountain. Hyundai Asan Corp., in particular, a South Korean firm that owns a 50-year license for its operation, spent about 800 billion won ($683.18 million) in constructing buildings and facilities necessary for the project.
Experts see Kim's order to remove all of the facilities as illustrating his frustration with the inter-Korean project gathering dust for more than a decade.
In September last year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim agreed to resume the Mount Kumgang tour program as soon as conditions are met. Little progress has since been made in the face of sanctions banning economic projects involving North Korea.
Kim has shown keen interest in developing the tourism industry as a cash cow at a time when global sanctions are crippling its anemic economy.
Earlier in the day, Pyongyang's media reported Kim's trip to a construction site at a spa resort in central North Korea, touting it as much better than the South Korean-built resort at Mount Kumgang in an indication of his intention to develop the tourism industry without outside help.(Yonhap)