04/30/2010, 00.00
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Mount Kumgang: Pyongyang expels South Koreans from resort

From May 3 only 16 of 100 workers employed in the tourist centre will be from the South. It is in North Korean territory, on the border between the two countries. Growing tension between the two Koreas after the sinking of the Cheonan corvette.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Pyongyang has ordered the expulsion of most of the remaining South Korean workers in the inter-Korean resort of Mount Kumgang, near the border. The news was confirmed today by officials from Seoul and is a further sign of growing tension between the two Koreas.

In South Korea, in fact, suspicion is mounting over the North’s involvement in the sinking of the South Korea corvette, the Cheonan, last March 26 in waters of the Yellow Sea with 46 victims. It would be the most serious attack since the end of the Korean War of 1950-53.

The Pyongyang regime has announced that, starting May 3 only 16 of 100 South Korean or Chinese of Korean origin workers will remain of those now employed in the tourist resort of Mount Kumgang in North Korean territory. Its opening in 1998 was accepted as a symbol of cooperation between the two countries still officially at war with each other. The killing of a South Korean tourist, on 11 July 2008, hit by a bullet fired by a soldier of the North, led to the closure of the centre.

The South Korean Minister for Unification, quoting official North Korean sources, reported that "16 will remain for communication purposes and their nationality is not important."

The resort of Mount Kumgang has provided tens of millions of dollars a year to the coffers of North Korea. Pyongyang has reported "significant" losses by the closure of the complex. Approximately two million South Koreans have visited the area - a symbol of "peace" between the two countries - before the suspension of travel. Seoul had invested about 374 million dollars for its development,.

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