South Korean skiers are likely to fly through the DPRK’s Kalma Airport to participate in joint training ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next month, the Ministry of Unification (MOU) said on Friday.
A 12-member South Korean delegation visited North Korea between Tuesday and Thursday to assess the facilities for an upcoming joint cultural event at Mount Kumgang and joint training of South and North Korean skiers at Masikryong Ski Resort.
The South Korean delegation assessed that the airport and the Masikryong Ski Resort were in good condition for the upcoming event, which was agreed on by the two Koreas at a vice-ministerial meeting last week.
The preliminary inspection team inspected facilities at the Kalma International Airport including the runway, taxiway, and airport apron, as well as safety facilities and equipment.
“The facilities are relatively well-equipped and the management condition was fine,” the MOU said in a written statement.
An official at unification ministry – who wished to remain anonymous – told media that Seoul will “make a final decision” on whether to use the airport to the North following discussions with relevant ministries.
Should the government agree to use the airport, the skiers will likely depart from Yangyang International Airport in South Korea’s Gangwon province.
A South Korean delegation visited the DPRK Tuesday to Thursday
International flights are yet to land at Kalma International Airport in Wonsan, an NK Pro last year showed, which in its two years has largely been reserved for military use.
The airport was, however, used as the venue for the inaugural Wonsan International Friendship Airshow in 2016, in which several hundred aviation enthusiasts visited the city to observe military and civilian aircraft maneuvers alongside thousands of locals.
But Google Earth imagery from May 2017 – verified in October imagery by Planet Labs – indicates one runway is yet to even be completed, suggesting the overall airport remains unfinished.
The South Korean preliminary inspection team also assessed that the Masikryong Ski Resort “doesn’t have a problem with conducting a practice game and a joint training,” the MOU said on Friday.
“Slopes and quality of snow are in good condition… gondola and lift are normally operated,” the MOU said.
As a result, the ministry said, the joint training of skiers can be held between the late January and early February at the ski resort.
North Korea’s Masikrong ski resort, which opened in December 2013, is controversial. Seen as something of a marquee construction project for Kim Jong Un, it is known to feature equipment imported in violation of international sanctions on the sale of luxury goods to Pyongyang.
Seoul and Pyongyang have also “virtually” agreed to hold the joint culture event on February 4 on Mount Kumgang, the official at the unification ministry said at the closed-door briefing, while stipulated the exact dates are yet to be decided on.
The South Korean government is “actively reviewing the cultural center as a performance venue to hold culture event.”
The venue has around 620 seats, which will be split evenly between participants from both Koreas.
“The South is considering performing modern and traditional music and hold a literacy event,” the official said, adding the North will play the traditional music, and that Seoul has proposed to the North Koreans that K-pop be performed at the event.
Not all the North Korean facilities were up to par, however, with the South Korean inspection team assessing that the Kumgangsan Hotel and the proposed venue for the reunion of separated families had “many disadvantages.”
The MOU said Seoul would finalize the venue after reviewing the issue with relevant ministries and experts.
The three facilities were previously owned by Hyundai Asan or South Korean authorities, but the assets were unilaterally frozen by the North in 2010 amid an inter-Korean dispute.
Lee Joo-tae, director general of Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Bureau at the Ministry of Unification, led the week’s delegation.
The preliminary team was composed of eight government officials from the MOU, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST), the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MOLIT), and others, as well as four representatives from Hyundai Asan and other organizations.
Meanwhile, a DPRK delegation arrived in South Korea for a three-day visit Thursday.
The 8-member delegation – headed by deputy director at the DPRK Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports Yun Yong Bok – visited to assess conditions in the South for the planned participation of North Korean athletes, a cheering squad, and a press corps.
The MOU said the DPRK delegation would inspect accommodation, the venue for opening and closing ceremony, stadium, and press center.
The DPRK women’s ice hockey team, composed of one director, 12 athletes, and two assistants, was dispatched in advance, with Seoul on Tuesday proposing the holding of joint training “as soon as possible.”
The North and South Korean teams met in the Jincheon National Training Center in North Chungcheong Province, roughly 90 minutes southwest of Seoul.
A DPRK preliminary inspection team made a two-day visit to the South on Sunday to discuss a planned art troupe performance during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The two Koreas have agreed to hold the concert on February 8 and 11 respectively, at the Gangneung Art Center and the Haeoreum Grand Theater of the National Theater of Korea in Seoul.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Ministry of Unification (MOU)
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 896 words of this article.