A seven person delegation from North Korea scheduled to visit South Korea on Saturday has abruptly cancelled its plans the evening before its arrival, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) said late Friday evening.
The delegation was to be led by Hyon Song Wol, a North Korean musician and former member of the country’s primary propaganda troupe, the Moranbong band.
Hyon’s delegation was for the purpose of inspecting facilities for the performance of the 140-member Samjiyon Orchestra, which the two Koreas have agreed will perform during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in both Seoul and Gangnueng.
North Korea issued a notice delivered under the name of Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC) to the South Korean Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon at around 2200 KST via the Panmunjom communications channel .
“In the statement, the North notified to suspend the dispatch of the preliminary inspection team of the performing squad – which is scheduled tomorrow (1.20) – to our side,” a statement from the MOu reads.
“The North didn’t provide the reason for stopping sending the preliminary inspection team of the performing squad… we will further check the relevant issues as Liaison Office at Panmunjom will normally operate during the weekend,” the statement added.
During an annual New Year’s Day speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made overtures towards the South, which led to the staging of the first high-level inter-Korean meeting since December 2015. Ri led the North Korea delegation taking part in the initial talks on January 9.
Progress at subsequent talks has been rapid, with both sides reaching a series of agreements that include approval of North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics, a decision that athletes from both teams would march under a unified banner, a joint women’s ice hockey team and the facilitation of the Samjiyon Orchestra as well as other cheering squads from the North and Japan.
The delegation was meant due to travel via the land route on the Gyeongui Line in western South Korea through the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).
The route, previously used by former businessmen and workers at the KIC, has been closed since February 2016.
It is unclear if the cancellation is a precursor for other set backs or if the delegation will travel as planned on another date. If eventually successful, the visit of the Samjiyon Orchestra will be the first to the South by a North Korean performing squad in 15 years.
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