South Korea to re-launch tourism near North border
Seoul: South Korea said on Sunday it would reopen tourist areas near the border with North Korea as tension sparked by the North`s deadly shelling of a frontier island in November shows signs of easing.
The Defence Ministry said all tourist spots and observation posts used by tourists at Imjingak, along the western border with North Korea, would be open to the public as of Monday morning.
The area, about 54 kilometres (33 miles) northwest of Seoul and popular among tourists, was closed on November 23 when Pyongyang shelled Yeonpyeong island, killing four South Koreans including two civilians and sending regional tensions soaring.
Pyongyang has recently lowered its military alert status, prompting Seoul and US forces to reduce their own alert status to a normal level, Yonhap news agency reported.
Special observations points used by tourists to peer into Northern territory were reopened last month, but Dora Observatory, which has the most extensive view, along with several other spots, remained closed due to its exposure to potential attacks.
"We now believe fully reopening the area will not be a problem for the safety of tourists," the ministry spokesman said.
Tensions have been acute since the shelling, which was the first attack on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War and prompted a series of military exercises by the South in a show of force against the North.
Pyongyang angrily responded by pledging retaliation but did not follow through on its threats.
The North also said last week it was open for dialogue with Seoul, after South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak reached out and offered closer economic ties if the communist nation shows a sincere effort to mend ties.
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