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North Korean Silence Creates Gaps in Tourist Killing Probe


South Korean investigators have released what they call "interim findings" in a probe of this month's shooting of a South Korean tourist by North Korea's military. However, amid the North's total refusal to cooperate in an investigation, serious information gaps remain. As VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul, South Korea's anger over the North's intransigence may be rising.

South Korean investigators are still having trouble verifying fundamental details in the shooting death of South Korean tourist Park Wang-ja.

The 53-year-old Park was shot twice by North Korea's military two weeks ago during her visit to the North's Kumgang mountain resort. The area is managed by South Korea as a long-term project to improve inter-Korean relations.

North Korea shared some information about the shooting with Hyundai Asan, the South Korean corporation that runs the resort but refuses any cooperation whatsoever with the South Korean government's probe.

Hwang Boo-gi, an investigator for the South's Unification Ministry, says there is a discrepancy in accounts over the killing.

He says the South estimates the shooting location to be about 200 meters away from fences marking a restricted no-access area. That differs, he says by the North's claim of a 300 meter distance.

North Korea says Park crossed into the restricted area during a morning walk and ran away when confronted by North Korean soldiers. She was shot in the back. Pyongyang says South Korea is to blame for the incident and has demanded an apology.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has called the shooting "intolerable," and has suspended the tourism project completely until North Korea cooperates in the probe. Although Seoul is still permitting some travel to the North by private civic groups, it is urging some of the groups to cancel their upcoming visits.

With the Kumgang resort closed, North Korea is losing revenues by the day and so is the Hyundai Asan corporation. The company's president Yoon Man-jun has apologized for the incident.

He calls the shooting the most tragic incident to happen since the tours began, and says he feels personally sorry.

Senior South Korean officials are now telling journalists the South may stiffen its policy toward the North even further soon, if North Korea continues to stonewall the investigation.

They have not specified their possible course of action, which they say they will take at "an appropriate time." However, officials have hinted a separate tour program at the North Korean city of Kaesong may also be suspended. A North-South joint industrial park near Kaesong is seen, for now, as safe from the dispute over the shooting probe.

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