SEOUL - A defiant North Korea blamed South Korea for the shooting death of a South Korean tourist in the communist nation and refused yesterday to cooperate in an investigation, jeopardizing a bid to improve relations between the countries.
While expressing regret that a North Korean soldier shot the woman Friday, the North demanded Seoul apologize for its "intolerable insult" of suspending trips to a North Korean mountain resort - and said it would not allow visitors until the South did so.
"The responsibility for the incident entirely rests with the South side," the tourism bureau said in the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. It added that South Korea "should be held responsible for the incident, make a clear apology to the North side, and take measures against the recurrence of a similar incident."
Tensions between the Koreas have flared since South Korea's conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in February. His government has criticized alleged human rights abuses in the North and been skeptical of offering unconditional aid to the impoverished country, a sharp departure from the previous decade of liberal Seoul leaders.
Yesterday, Lee denounced the killing of 53-year-old homemaker Park Wang-ja and urged the North to cooperate in the investigation. "What cannot and should not happen has happened," Lee told a security ministers' meeting, according to his office.
"I can't understand that they shot a civilian tourist" at a time of day when it was possible to discern she was a civilian, Lee said.