North Korean officials on Tuesday agreed to send a Paralympic Committee delegation and athletes to March’s PyeongChang Winter Paralympics, while retracting a previous plan to dispatch a performing and cheering squad to the games.
Representatives of the two Koreas held talks at the Tongilgak building on the DPRK side of the Panmunjom Truce Village from 1000 KST to discuss the DPRK’s participation in the sports event.
A three-member South Korean delegation was led by Director General of the Inter-Korean Exchange & Cooperation Lee Joo-tae.
His North Korean counterpart was Hwang Chung Song, director of the DPRK’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC).
The two Koreas previously agreed that the North would send around 150 National Paralympic Committee delegates, as well as athletes, cheering and performing squads, and journalists to the Paralympics at vice-ministerial working-level talks in January.
But Tuesday saw the North agree to dispatch a significantly smaller delegation to the PyeongChang Paralympics, which will be held between March 8 and 18, without a cheering or performing squad.
“It is presumed that North Korea has decided not to dispatch the performing and cheering squads to the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics for internal political reasons,” the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) said in a press release.
With regard to the participation of press corps, the North will notice later after checking journalists are included in the list of delegation and athletes.
During the meeting, the North notified the South that it instead planned to send a four-member Paralympic Committee delegation and 20 athletes.
Pyongyang dispatched a 473-member delegation, including 137 members of an art troupe and a 229-member cheering squad, to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics this month.
The unification ministry said the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had announced an eight-member DPRK national squad would participate in the Paralympics, but Pyongyang has reportedly suggested sending an additional four athletes and eight guardians.
An additional four participants, however, will not take part in a competition, and the MOU has said that the exact scale of the North Korean delegation will be finalized in coordination with IPC.
“North Korea’s Paralympic Committee delegation and athletes will come and go through the land route of the Gyeongui Line,” a joint press release provided by the MOU read.
“The North’s delegates and athletes will visit the South on March 7. The returning date will be at a convenient time and date after consultations between the two Koreas.”
The unification ministry said further details of the North’s participation will be discussed through the Panmunjom communications channel.
The MOU said the delegations discussed “practical issues” during meetings held this morning, including the size of the North’s delegation and the number of athletes, as well as their period of stay, route, and accommodation.
The meeting came the same day a high-level delegation of North Korean officials returned home following a three-day visit to the South to attend the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
The delegation – led by Kim Yong Chol – crossed the military demarcation line (MDL) at noon, having held meetings with South Korean officials including President Moon Jae-in and Chief of National Security Office (NSO) Chung Eui-yong during their visit.
Kim serves as vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and director of the United Front Department of the WPK Central Committee.
Before their departure Tuesday morning, South Korean officials including Director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Suh Hoon, unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon, and vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung had breakfast with the North Korean delegates.
The meeting continued for around one hour beginning at 0900 local time, the MOU said, with the officials having “assessed the successful conclusion of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.”
“They agreed to continue the efforts to improve the South-North relations and settle peace on the Korean peninsula,” the ministry added.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Ministry of Unification
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