SEOUL - North Korea has announced it will boycott next month's World University Games in South Korea in protest against the opening in Seoul of a UN office to monitor Pyongyang's human rights record, organisers said yesterday.
The North had offered to send 75 athletes and 33 officials to the games, also known as the Universiade, in the southern city of Gwangju from July 3 to 14. But the North last Friday e-mailed the Gwangju Universiade organising committee to announce it was pulling out, officials said.
"I hereby inform you that we are unable to participate in (the) 28th Summer Universiade," read the message e-mailed by Mr Jon Kuk Man, chairman of the North's University Sports Association.
A copy of the message was made public by an opposition lawmaker based in Gwangju. Mr Jon accused the South of pursuing "military confrontation" and said the UN office drove inter-Korean relations to "the extreme situation" and "cooled down our atmosphere to participate".
Gwangju mayor Yoon Jang Hyun urged the North to change its mind.
"We will wait until the last minute for North Korea to participate," he was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as saying.
North Korea has several times threatened the South with "merciless punishment" if it went ahead with the opening of the UN office, planned for today.
The United Nations proposed opening the field office following a searing report by a UN commission, which concluded that the North was committing human rights violations "without parallel in the contemporary world".
The report formed the basis of a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly urging the Security Council to consider referring Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court.
Despite Pyongyang's move, Gwangju Universiade organisers held out hope it would still take part. "We don't regard the e-mail as North Korea's final decision because the FISU has yet to receive the same e-mail from Pyongyang," a committee official said, referring to the International University Sports Federation, which runs the Universiade.