North, South Korea to hold working-level talks on Jan 15

South Korean football legend Cha Bum Kun with the Olympic flame during the Pyeongchang 2018 Torch Relay near the World Cup Stadium in Seoul yesterday. The torch will be paraded for four days before making its way to Pyeongchang for the start of the W
South Korean football legend Cha Bum Kun with the Olympic flame during the Pyeongchang 2018 Torch Relay near the World Cup Stadium in Seoul yesterday. The torch will be paraded for four days before making its way to Pyeongchang for the start of the Winter Games.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Pyongyang to discuss sending its performance art group to Winter Olympics in South

SEOUL • North Korea and South Korea have agreed to have working-level talks tomorrow at the Tongil Pavilion on the North's side of the truce village of Panmunjom, news agency Yonhap reported.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said earlier yesterday that North Korea had proposed holding talks on the prospects of sending its performance art group to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which are being held in South Korea.

"North Korea sent a notification suggesting to have working-level talks at the Tongil Pavilion on the North Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom on Jan 15 to discuss about sending its performance group," said the ministry.

It added that the North also wanted to propose a date for working-level talks on its participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, to be held from Feb 9 to 25.

The ministry said the North is apparently keen to discuss logistics of the performers' trip to the South before planning its athletes and supporters' attendance at the Games.

"It appears that the North wants to discuss various practical matters related to an art troupe's visit as a priority," it said, adding that the government would respond after reviewing the North's proposal.

Leader Hyon Song Wol of the popular Moranbong band is one of four North Korean delegates set to attend the talks tomorrow.

The Moranbong band is an all-female music group performing pop, rock and fusion styles, whose members are reportedly selected by the North's leader Kim Jong Un himself.

It comes a day after South Korea's Vice-Sports Minister Roh Tae Kang said the South had proposed marching with North Korea at the Olympics' opening ceremony and also forming a joint women's ice hockey team.

A joint march would be a stunning statement for the so-dubbed "Peace Olympics", which will open about 80km from the heavily fortified Korean border on Feb 9.

The North confirmed it would attend the Olympics at a rare inter-Korea talks last Tuesday, the first between the two sides since 2015.

Yesterday, cheering crowds welcomed the Olympic flame to a freezing Seoul, where the torch will be paraded for four days before making its way to Pyeongchang for the start of the Winter Games.

South Korean freestyle figure skater Park Hee Jin raised the flame high before a crowd of hundreds who were gathered in the capital's Sangam district in a ceremony.

Fans unfurled banners wishing the Olympics success, accompanied by the rousing sound of traditional Korean drummers, while others took pictures with their phones.

The outlook for next month's sporting extravaganza has brightened since North Korea confirmed its participation, lifting security concerns over the South's nuclear-armed neighbour.

Meanwhile, North Korean propaganda website Uriminzokkiri said last Friday South Korea should "permanently halt" its annual military drills with the US, which South Korean President Moon Jae In and his US counterpart Donald Trump agreed to temporarily postpone until after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics next month.

"Inter-Korea talks and war drill can never be compatible," said Uriminzokkiri in its commentary.

"It's nothing but an attempt to bring disaster and misfortune to our people."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 14, 2018, with the headline 'North, South Korea to hold working-level talks on Jan 15'. Print Edition | Subscribe