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Monday 25 June 2018

North Korea cancels pre-Olympic joint cultural event

The Winter Games start on February 9.

The 2018 Pyeongchang Games will be held from February 9 to 25. (Lee Jin-man/AP)
The 2018 Pyeongchang Games will be held from February 9 to 25. (Lee Jin-man/AP)

By Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press

North Korea has cancelled one of the key joint cooperation projects with South Korea planned for next month’s Winter Olympics, officials said, further proving the delicate nature of ties between the rivals split for seven decades.

North Korea sent a message saying it won’t hold a joint cultural event at the North’s Diamond Mountain on February 4 to mark the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

The ministry cited North Korea as saying it has no other option but to cancel the project because of South Korean media reports that it says defamed its “sincere” measures for the Olympics.

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North Korean defectors tear portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a press conference against the North Korea’s participation (Ahn Young-joon)

The North also accused South Korean media of picking a fight over an unspecified domestic festival in North Korea, according to the ministry statement.

The statement said South Korea considers the North’s decision “very regrettable”.

The North did not say which media reports were at issue. But some reports had criticised the North’s plan to stage a major event to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military on February 8, just one day before the Olympics’ opening ceremony.

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North and South Korean ice hockey players have trained together (Korean Olympic Association/AP)

South Korean officials have said the North plans a massive military parade on the anniversary.

It is not clear how the latest development would affect other planned Olympics-related cooperation projects between the Koreas.

They agreed to field a joint women’s hockey team and have their athletes parade together under a single flag during the opening ceremony on February 9. A dozen North Korean hockey players arrived in North Korea last week to practice with the South Korean players.

North Korea has a history of last-minute cancellations and unexplained reversals, and some experts say it might have sought to gain concessions from the South.

The visit earlier this month of a prominent band leader to inspect artistic venues in the South was delayed by North Korea but eventually took place.

The Koreas’ current reconciliation mood followed a year of heightened animosities over North Korea’s nuclear program. Many analysts say the North may want to use improved ties with South Korea to weaken US-led pressure and sanctions on the country.

Press Association

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