N. Korea to seize S. Korean properties

Associated Press / April 24, 2010

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SEOUL — North Korea said yesterday that it will confiscate five South Korean-owned properties at a jointly operated mountain resort in the isolated communist country, a development likely to worsen already-soured relations.

North Korea has been demanding that the South resume tours to the facility, which had been a key source of foreign currency earnings for the impoverished nation but were suspended after a North Korean soldier killed a South Korean tourist in 2008.

South Korea has refused to restart tours until its demands for a joint investigation into the shooting are carried out and measures to guarantee the safety of tourists are outlined.

Tensions between the two Koreas are already high after a South Korean navy ship sank last month, killing at least 39 people and leaving seven missing, amid suspicion that North Korea may have been responsible.

Pyongyang has denied involvement.

“The confiscated real estate will be put into the possession of the [North] or handed over to new businessmen according to legal procedures,’’ North Korea said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency yesterday.

The North warned that it will “take more rigid follow-up measures’’ if South Korea challenges what the North calls legitimate steps. It did not elaborate.