South Korea warned North Korea on Monday against taking any unilateral action to dispose of seized South Korean assets at a scenic mountain resort for the stalled joint tours in the North. "The North should immediately stop acts of infringement of property rights" of South Korean investors, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters.
The comment came ahead of Wednesday's deadline set by the North for final discussions on the fate of South Korea's assets estimated to be worth about 300 billion won (US$278 million), South Korea's News Agency (Yonhap) reported.
The South Korean government and businesses have invested tens of millions of dollars into hotels, restaurants and a golf course since 1998 when the isolated country opened Mount Kumgang on its east coast.
However, Seoul suspended the joint program following the shooting death of a South Korean female tourist near the resort in 2008.
The North has since ratcheted up pressure on South Korea in an apparent move to restart the tour program to earn much-needed hard currency.
Pyongyang claims it has done everything it can to shed light on the shooting and guarantee the safety of future tourists. Still, Seoul says it has yet to receive a formal apology for the incident or guarantees to enhance safety.
In an apparent anger, North Korea last year seized or froze several South Korean assets at the resort. Earlier this year, the North announced a law designed to develop the resort as a special zone for international tours.
Last month, a delegation of South Korean government officials and investors traveled to the resort, though no substantial meetings took place.
The North has since issued an ultimatum that it will take unspecified legal steps to dispose of the assets unless South Korean investors come to the resort by July 13 with plans on how to handle their assets.
Last week, South Korea suggested the two sides meet either in the South on Wednesday or at any date and location favored by the North to discuss the matter.
The North has yet to respond to Seoul's proposal, Chun said