North Korea has suggested holding a concert in South Korea on February 8, the eve of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and another on February 11, the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) said in a statement on Wednesday.
The proposals are the latest sign of an ongoing but still fragile process of inter-Korean rapprochement surrounding the winter games, which South Korea will be hosting throughout February and March.
Pyongyang suggested dispatching a large artistic delegation to perform in the concerts in South Korea between February 6 -12, the MOU said, more or less resembling the same proposal as Hyun Song-wol had discussed with counterparts during her recent visit to the South.
A February 8 concert was suggested to take place in Gangneung, where several Winter Olympics venues are located, as well as in Seoul’s National Theater on February 11, the MOU said.
The North Koreans proposed sending a delegation of about 140 members in total, including about 80 orchestra members and a number of singers and dancers.
Pyongyang also told Seoul that it wishes to send 15 female ice hockey team members – which will take part in a controversial joint-Korean team during the Olympics – as well as other related delegation members to South Korea on January 25, the MOU said.
The South has suggested the North dispatch its female hockey team players as soon as possible to facilitate joint training with its own national Olympics ice hockey team, the MOU explained.
A South Korean delegation is meanwhile inspecting the North’s Masikryong ski resort ahead of the two Koreas conducting joint training there, as well as an area near Mt. Kumgang for a forthcoming joint cultural event.
The timing of these joint events in the North is still under discussion, though the MOU said Wednesday it expected clarity after the return of its delegation.
CONCERT DATE QUESTION
The proposed date of the first concert – February 8 – notably matches the one North Korea hinted in state media on Tuesday and recently to Pyongyang embassies that will use to hold a military parade to celebrate the country’s so-called “Army Building Day.”
However, it’s not clear whether the DPRK artistic performance proposed for the same day intends to relate in any way to military-focused activities that may be celebrated in North Korea.
“A possible explanation would be that this is the day just before the Olympics start,” said NK Pro Analyst Fyodor Tertitskiy. “If they would intend on doing something military related, the Blue House would have probably protested.”
Any North Korean attempted use of the forthcoming Winter Olympics to bolster its credentials as a nuclear weapons equipped-state will likely embarrass the South.
In the meantime, conservatives in the South are continuing to criticize North Korean participation in the Olympics.
Monday saw a rally in central Seoul at which members of the far-right burned a photo of DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, the North’s national flag, and the Korean unification flag.
In response, Pyongyang on Tuesday urged the South Korean government to “apologize” for the anti-North Korean rally in Seoul, threatening to renege on inter-Korean agreements concerning its participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged the South Korean public on Monday to support his government’s emerging North Korea policy, warning that the “atmosphere of dialogue” may otherwise dissipate after the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Speaking at a weekly meeting with his chief secretaries and aides, Moon said Monday that he hoped the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics would encourage Seoul and Pyongyang to sit face-to-face again after a two-year pause in dialogue.
“We are facing a precious opportunity to resolve the North Korean nuclear issues in a peaceful manner and open up the path of establishing peace on the Korean peninsula now,” Moon said.
“Wisdom and efforts are required to make a good use of the opportunity for dialogue – which we miraculously earned due to the PyeongChang Olympics – even after PyeongChang.”
Edited by Chad O’Carroll
Featured image: Uriminzokkiri
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