South Korea seeks North's explanation on cancelled visit to prepare for Winter Olympics

Unification flags hang on a military fence near the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, on Jan 19, 2018.
Unification flags hang on a military fence near the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, on Jan 19, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - South Korea has officially asked North Korea to explain why it cancelled dispatching an advance team to the South to prepare for concerts during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, according to Yonhap. 

On Friday (Jan 19) night, Pyongyang suddenly withdrew an earlier offer to send an advance team over the weekend to South Korea to check performance venues. The team, led by Hyon Song Wol, the leader of a North Korean orchestra, was slated to arrive on Saturday.

“We’ve conveyed our stance to the North, saying the South is fully ready for the visit of North’s advance team and that we can discuss a new date again,” Yonhap reported South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon as saying in Seoul.

The Unification Ministry also said on Saturday that the sudden cancellation was "not permanent".

"It's not a permanent cancellation on sending its advance team for performance, it is a tentative cancel," a ministry official said.

The unification ministry said North Korea did not mention a reason in its notification canceling the dispatch, according to an emailed statement earlier. 

The drawback comes just as tensions between the two Koreas were easing, with North Korea now set to participate in the Winter Olympics for the first time in eight years.  As a result of talks in January, the North will send a 140-member orchestra to hold concerts in cities in its southern neighbor during the winter games and the two Koreas will march jointly under one unified flag during the Olympics opening ceremony scheduled Feb 9. 

However, North Korea and South Korea will still discuss matters concerning next month's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics via the hotline between the two Koreas throughout the weekend, and the issue of the delegation's sudden change in schedule could be discussed, the official added.

Meanwhile, North Korea called the United Nations' Secretary General's remarks this week on its nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches "biased" for not taking the United States to task on its own nuclear programme, and attacked the United States and other nations for calling North Korea's nuclear programme "violations of resolutions".

North Korea said the remarks it took issue with were in the vein of "the US desperately trying to reverse the trend of detente and improvement of inter-Korean relations, which is hardly achieved now", seemingly referring to the apparent diplomatic breakthrough surrounding the Winter Olympics, according to a statement from the Permanent Mission of the DPRK to the United Nations.