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Page last updated at 09:53 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 10:53 UK

Seoul irked as inquiry hits wall

Resort officials on the beach near where the tourist was shot, on 13 July 2008
North Korea said the woman entered a fenced-off military area

South Korean investigators say they cannot resolve questions over the death of a tourist in North Korea because they have not been allowed access.

Park Wang-ja, a 53-year-old housewife, was shot dead by a North Korean soldier in a special tourism zone in the communist state on 11 July.

South Korea's lead investigator said suspicions could not be resolved without examination of the scene.

But he said a discrepancy had emerged over where the tourist was shot.

South Korea has suspended tours to the resort over the incident - angering North Korea, for which it is a major foreign currency earner.

'Visit needed'

Almost two million South Koreans have visited the Mount Kumgang resort since it opened in 1998.

It is one of the most visible symbols of inter-Korean cooperation and offers hotels and sporting facilities - but is also situated in a strategic naval zone.

Map

North Korea says the woman strayed into a fenced-off military area during an early-morning stroll and ignored a warning to stop.

But South Korea wants to investigate for itself and on Friday announced the outcome of an initial probe.

"There is a limit in resolving all suspicions under the current situation, in which an investigation through an onsite visit cannot be made," fact-finding commission chief Hwang Boo-gi said.

Investigators believed Mrs Park was shot about 200m (650 feet) away from the fences, he said.

"This is different from North Korea's claim of 300m. This is a discrepancy that has to be verified through a visit to North Korea," Yonhap news agency quoted him as saying.

Interviews with other tourists had produced conflicting testimonies, he said.

The row has further chilled ties between the two Koreas. They have been tense since Lee Myung-bak took office in South Korea in February and pledged a tougher stance towards Pyongyang.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged North Korea to take up Seoul's offer of direct talks on the issue.

"There needs to be an investigation of what happened but principally so that there can be steps taken so that tragedies like this don't happen again," she said.



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