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Koreas start talks on N.K. art troupe's trip during Winter Olympics

15 January 2018 08:45 1240

ASTANA. KAZINFORM South and North Korea started working-level talks Monday to discuss the North's plan to send an art troupe to the South during next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Kazinform has learned from Yonhap.

The two sides opened the talks at 10:11 a.m. on the North side of the shared border village of Panmunjom, in the follow-up to their high-level talks, held last week, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

Last week, North Korea agreed to send a delegation of athletes, cheerleaders, an art troupe and taekwondo demonstration teams, along with high-ranking officials, to the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Olympics in the South.

The move comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un extended a rare rapprochement to Seoul, expressing the willingness to hold dialogue with the South.

"A North Korean art troupe's potential trip is gaining attention at home and abroad," Lee Woo-sung, a senior official at the Seoul's culture ministry and the South's chief delegate, told reporters before departure. "We will calmly hold the talks to produce good results."Both sides are expected to work out details, such as the number of performers, their travel route, and schedules.

The North's chief delegate is Kwon Hyok-bong, former head of the North's Unhasu Orchestra and now director of the performing arts bureau at the culture ministry. Its delegation also includes Hyon Song-wol, the leader of the all-female Moranbong Band.

The Moranbong Band was established in July 2012 by the North's leader Kim Jong-un, featuring Western-style music and outfits.

Experts said that under international sanctions, music performances could be a good means for North Korea to soften its image after a series of missile and nuclear provocations.

"If the Moranbong Band comes to the South, and if its members wear military suits or footage containing the praise for Kim Jong-un and launches of nukes and missiles is displayed on the screen at the stage, it could be a big row," said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute.

"To make an artist troupe's visit help reconciliation, the two sides need to thoroughly discuss details, such as troupe members' attire and the style of performances," he added.

The government on Friday proposed holding working-level talks on the North's participation in the games. But the North instead offered talks on the art troupe.

While accepting the North's proposal, the ministry called on Pyongyang to quickly respond to its dialogue offer. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) plans to hold a meeting with officials from the two Koreas on Saturday in Lausanne, Switzerland, to discuss details of the North's participation.

Last week, the South proposed the two Koreas' athletes jointly march at the opening ceremony, which the North is said to be "positively" considering. Seoul also offered to assemble a joint women's hockey team with North Korea at the Olympics.

"The North is expected to respond to the proposal soon," Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told reporters. "There is a high possibility (for the working-level talks to be held this week)."


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