July 12, 2008 in Nation/World

Tourist’s death clouds North, South Korea relations

By BURT HERMAN Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea – A soldier fatally shot a South Korean tourist Friday at a resort in North Korea, prompting the South to suspend a high-profile tourism program just as the president was seeking to repair strained ties with his communist neighbor.

The death of the 53-year-old woman, who the North said had ventured into a restricted military area during a pre-dawn stroll at a beach, followed a series of hostile North Korean moves against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Since Lee assumed office in February with a tougher line on dealing with the North, the Pyongyang regime has expelled South Korean officials from joint economic projects, labeled Lee a “traitor” and warned of renewed fighting between the Koreas.

A spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, Kim Ho-nyeon, announced that the government was suspending tours to the North’s Diamond Mountain resort pending an investigation of the shooting. “We regret that our tourist was killed,” Kim said.

North Korea said the shooting victim, Park Wang-ja, walked three-quarters of a mile into a fenced-off military zone, then fled when a soldier shouted for her to stop – and kept running after a warning shot, according to Hyundai Asan, the company that runs tours to Diamond Mountain.

Park was shot about 5 a.m. some 200 yards from the fence, according to the North, but officials didn’t inform Hyundai Asan for more than six hours, the company said.

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