About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Correction at 1745 KST, January 18: The South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) said the North Korean squad to the Daegu Universiade Games in 2003 was made up of 303, not 306, participants. This article has been amended to reflect this.
North Korea will send a 230-member cheering squad to next month’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics and is seeking to use an overland route for the delegation’s trip south, Seoul’s unification ministry said on Wednesday.
North and South Korea held vice ministerial-level talks from 1000 KST at the Peace House on the southern half of Panmunjom to discuss the North’s participation in the upcoming games.
The two Koreas reportedly exchanged views on the size of the delegation of North Korean athletes, cheering squad, and Taekwondo demonstration team to be sent to the games, as well as the events the athletes will participate in.
“The North expressed its position to dispatch around 230 members of cheering squad,” the Ministry of Unification (MOU) said in a written statement.
A joint statement from the Koreas is expected to be released later in the day.
The DPRK has dispatched a cheering squad to sports events hosted by the South three times since 2002, but the visit, if it goes ahead, would be the first of its kind in over a decade.
A 288-member cheering party was sent to 2002 Asian Games in Busan, the unification ministry confirmed to NK News. Pyongyang then dispatched 303 and 124 North Koreans to the Daegu Universiade Games in 2003 and the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon respectively.
The North also proposed that its Olympic Committee delegation, athletes, cheering squad, Taekwondo demonstration team, and reporters travel to the South using an overland route on the western coast.
Seoul and Pyongyang also exchanged opinions over a potential “South-North joint cultural event” at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang and the possible use of the Masikryong Ski Resort.
Mount Kumgang was previously the site of a jointly-run resort, which was closed in 2008 following the shooting of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier.
It has also served as a site for reunions of families separated by the Korean War, the last of which was held in 2015.
The two Koreas appear not to have reached any agreement, however, with the MOU saying that both discussed “joint entrance at the opening ceremony, the formation of a joint women’s ice hockey team and the South-North joint cultural event.”
“Both South and North Korean side exchanged each other’s concrete positions in a sincere and faithful manner, sharing the view that they should make the PyeongChang Olympics which will be held soon a festival of peace and harmony.”
The unification ministry said earlier in the day that the North had shared a “rough plan” to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, as well as Paralympics the following month, during the morning meeting.
The two Koreas will finalize the details of North Korea’s Paralympics participation in consultation with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the MOU added.
Wednesday’s North Korean delegation is led by Jon Jong Su, vice-chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC).
Vice-minister of Physical Culture and Sports Won Kil U and Kim Kang Guk, a reporter at the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), are also participating.
Unification Vice Minister Chun Hae-sung is leading the South Korean delegation, which includes Deputy Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office Ahn Moon-hyun, and Vice President of Games Planning for PyeongChang Organizing Committee Kim Ki-hong.
This is the third inter-Korean meeting this year, coming just two over weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed his willingness to open inter-Korean dialogue during a new year speech.
The two Koreas on Monday held working-level talks over the dispatch of a North Korean cultural delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics, with Pyongyang agreeing to send 140 members of the Samjiyon Orchestra to South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NIE Times Creative Commons