Shooting in North puts South Korean president in tough spot

FILE; Ho Yong-hak/AFP/Getty Images As if North Korea could be any less tourist-friendly (see a recent FP list on the subject), today a North Korean soldier reportedly shot and killed a 53-year-old South Korean woman vacationing in the scenic Diamond Mountain region. The woman apparently entered a fenced-off area near the popular Mount Kumgang resort, ...

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594088_080711_lee5.jpg

FILE; Ho Yong-hak/AFP/Getty Images

As if North Korea could be any less tourist-friendly (see a recent FP list on the subject), today a North Korean soldier reportedly shot and killed a 53-year-old South Korean woman vacationing in the scenic Diamond Mountain region. The woman apparently entered a fenced-off area near the popular Mount Kumgang resort, which more than a million South Korean tourists have visited since its opening in 1998.

In response, South Korea has ordered the nearly 1,300 tourists who were staying at Mount Kumgang to pack their bags and come home. This is bad news for the impoverished North, as tourists are one of its few legitimate sources of foreign currency.

FILE; Ho Yong-hak/AFP/Getty Images

As if North Korea could be any less tourist-friendly (see a recent FP list on the subject), today a North Korean soldier reportedly shot and killed a 53-year-old South Korean woman vacationing in the scenic Diamond Mountain region. The woman apparently entered a fenced-off area near the popular Mount Kumgang resort, which more than a million South Korean tourists have visited since its opening in 1998.

In response, South Korea has ordered the nearly 1,300 tourists who were staying at Mount Kumgang to pack their bags and come home. This is bad news for the impoverished North, as tourists are one of its few legitimate sources of foreign currency.

South Korea has handled the shooting pretty poorly. The South Korean government reportedly got word of the affair late Friday morning but didn’t make an official announcement about it until 4 p.m., Seoul time. Problem is, the announcement came after President Lee Myung-bak gave a 2 p.m. address about his plans to resume talks with North Korea and didn’t mention the shooting, though he already knew about it. That’s not the sort of thing you want to do when one of your citizens has just been shot by your chief adversary.

As the Chosun Ilbo put it, “The incident could prove disastrous for inter-Korean ties.” But it could also prove disastrous for the increasingly unpopular Lee Myung-bak, coming on the heels of the massive protests against his decision to resume imports of U.S. beef. Watch this space.

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