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North Korean Soldiers Shoot, Kill Tourist From South

A North Korean soldier has shot dead a tourist from South Korea, raising tensions between the two adversaries and casting a shadow over an offer of talks from Seoul.

The early-morning shooting on July 11 happened just outside the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea.

Under a deal between the two countries, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans are allowed to visit the fenced-in vacation complex, which has several hotels, a golf course, and spa.

The resort is an important hard-currency earner for Pyongyang, and the tourism agreement was the fruit of a 1998 detente agreement between the two countries.

The circumstances of the shooting remain unclear.

Officials in the South said the woman, named in media reports as 53-year-old Park Wang-ja, was killed when she wandered beyond the resort perimeter into a military zone -- during a predawn stroll.

The incident apparently took place on a beach adjoining the complex, at around 5 a.m. local time.

The South Korean tour operator said the woman fled despite a soldier’s warning to halt. She was fatally shot in the chest and hip. Her body was later handed over to the South.

Kim Ho-nyoun, a spokesman for the South's Unification Ministry, which handles crossborder relations, called the shooting "deeply regrettable."

There has been no official comment from North Korea.

The shooting comes with North and South Korea holding talks on July 11 in Beijing, along with delegates from China, the United States, Russia, and Japan as part of years of negotiations on getting the North to abandon its nuclear programs.

It also comes on the same day that President Lee Myung-bak offered to hold talks with the North to end months of increasing hostility between the two governments.

compiled from agency reports