Sanctions-hit North Korea has asked for oil to refuel ferry carrying Olympics delegation

The Mangyongbong 92 arrived in South Korea on Feb 6, carrying a 140-strong orchestra to perform during the Winter Olympics.

SEOUL (REUTERS, AFP) - North Korea has asked South Korea to provide oil to refuel a ferry carrying its Olympics delegation, Seoul's Unification Ministry said on Wednesday (Feb 7).

The ship, the Mangyongbong 92, arrived in the South on Tuesday (Feb 6) carrying a 140-strong orchestra to perform during the Winter Olympics, which begin on Friday (Feb 9). The vessel is also being used to accommodate the delegation.

North Korea asked for oil supplies after the ship arrived and the South was reviewing the request, ministry spokesman Baik Tae Hyun told a news briefing in Seoul.

The North's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam, 90, is due to arrive Friday, the highest-level Pyongyang official ever to visit the South.

A group of 280 North Koreans arrived in South Korea on Wednesday, one of the largest peacetime crossing of the inter-Korean border.

The delegation, made up mostly of a 229-member cheer squad, reached a border checkpoint by bus at around 8.30 am (Singapore time), Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

In addition to the cheering squad, there were 26 taekwondo performers, 21 journalists and four North Korean Olympics committee members, including Sports Minister Kim Il Guk, the Unification Ministry said.

After security controls the group left for the Olympics venue in the alpine resort town of Pyeongchang.

Aside from the sports officials, the group will be housed at Inje Speedium Hotel & Resort, a four-star luxury hotel roughly two-hours drive from the Olympic venue in Pyeongchang.

Days before the group's arrival, workers at Inje Speedium had placed banners around the premises welcoming the North Koreans, reading "We are one" and "welcome".

Police have been deployed to enforce safety at the resort.

The members of North Korea's Olympics committee are expected to stay at the Pyeongchang Holiday Inn, a subsidiary of InterContinental Hotels Group.

On Tuesday (Feb 6), hundreds of angry South Korean conservatives demonstrated Tuesday as the ship carrying around 120 performers arrived at the eastern port of Mukho.

Some carried pictures of North Korean leader Kim JongUn with a huge X across his face, while others crumpled the images, stamping them underfoot, and burned both a North Korean flag and a unified Korea flag.

North Korea on Wednesday slammed anti-Pyongyang activists for rallying against its participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, dismissing a dockside protest as a "spasm of psychopaths".

They "ran around like headless chickens, barking that 'the ship of reds came, 'go back to your country' and 'boost the south Korea-US alliance'", Pyongyang's state KCNA news agency said on Wednesday (Feb 7).

"Worse still, they made no bones about besmirching the dignity of the DPRK supreme leadership and burning the flags of the DPRK North Korea) and the Korean Peninsula", it said.

Any insult to the ruling Kim dynasty always provokes the North's ire.

"They are no more than a group of benighted gangsters inferior to beast," KCNA said, adding that the protestors were "human scum".

The performers spent the night on board the vessel and did not emerge until Wednesday, when they marched off in red coats and were bussed to the Gangneung venue for a rehearsal.

The art troupe, called the Samjiyon Orchestra and numbering 140 in all, is due to perform on Thursday in Gangneung, where the Games' ice events are being held, and in Seoul on Sunday.

The North's taekwondo performance team is scheduled to hold four shows during their stay in South Korea. Two demonstrations will be held near Pyeongchang, while the team will travel to the capital Seoul for the remaining two.

During their Seoul visit, home will be the five-star Grand Walkerhill for the North Koreans, which overlooks the Han River and previously hosted American celebrities like Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton.

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