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N. Korea to expel S. Koreans from resort

  • Story Highlights
  • Move comes as Seoul pushes its neighbor to cooperate into shooting probe
  • S. Korean woman was shot dead by a N. Korean soldier
  • Resort is part of a tightly controlled and well-marked area
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea said Sunday it will expel all "unnecessary" South Koreans from a mountain resort in the communist nation where a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a soldier last month.

The move comes as South Korea pushes its neighbor to cooperate in a probe into the July 11 death of the 53-year-old woman by a North Korean soldier.

South Korea's national news agency, Yonhap, carried a statement by the North Korean Army that said it would expel "all the persons of the south side ... we deem unnecessary."

The North also warned it would "take strong military counter-actions against even the slightest hostile actions" in the area, Yonhap said.

South Korean authorities did not immediately issue a response.

The tourist is believed to have been on a walk and went beyond the resort's boundaries when North Korean soldiers were ordered to shoot, North Korean authorities said, according to Hyundai Asan, the South Korean tour company that books the trips.

The tour company said it has not yet been notified of North Korea's decision, Yonhap said.

The resort is part of a tightly controlled and well-marked area along the east coast of the Korean peninsula and one of only two areas South Korean tourists are allowed to travel to in the North.

The death prompted Seoul to suspend tours to the mountain.

About 830 workers are stationed at the resort, 263 of whom are South Koreans, the news agency said.

The two countries have technically remained in a state of war since the Korean War ended in 1953, although relations have warmed somewhat in the last eight years. The Korean conflict ended in a truce, but no formal peace treaty was ever signed.

Rapprochement talks between the two nations hit a wall after conservative South Korea President Lee Myung-bak took office in February promising a tougher stance toward the North than his liberal predecessor Roh Moo-Hyun.

In its statement Sunday, North Korea said its counterparts in the South were "working hard to lay the blame for the incident at the door of our side."

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North Korea contends the woman herself was to blame for her death. A soldier was "compelled to open fire" after the tourist disregarded several warnings to stop -- and poor pre-dawn visibility made it difficult for the guard to identify her as a tourist, according to the statement carried by Yonhap.

South Korea counters that the shooting took place when the sunlight was adequate to identify the victim as a tourist.

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