NK calls off joint performance with SK
North Korea has called off a joint cultural performance with artistes from South Korea ahead of the forthcoming Winter Olympics, officials in Seoul said yesterday, underscoring the fragility of their Games-led rapprochement.
The event at Mount Kumgang, a renowned scenic spot in North Korea, had been due to take place on Sunday as part of a flurry of talks and visits between Seoul and nuclear-armed Pyongyang ahead of the Games in Pyeongchang next month.
The moves, triggered by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in his New Year speech, come after a year in which Pyongyang carried out multiple missile launches and its most powerful nuclear test to date, sending fears of conflict on the peninsula soaring.
As well as athletes, Pyongyang is sending hundreds of other delegates to attend and hold parallel events, including cheerleaders and artistes who will mount cultural performances in Seoul and the Games venue Gangneung.
South Koreans had been due to take part in a reciprocal event at Mount Kumgang this weekend, but Seoul’s unification ministry said North Korea told it that the performance had been called off and Pyongyang had taken umbrage at critical media coverage.
North Korea’s decision to attend Pyeongchang came after months of entreaties from South Korea to participate in a “peace Olympics,” and the two have agreed to form a unified women’s ice hockey team, their first such side since 1991.
But there has been criticism in South Korea that Seoul has made too many concessions to Pyongyang to persuade it to participate, and that the unified team will deprive some South Korean skaters of their chance to compete on the Olympic stage.
Pyongyang has also said it will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of its regular military on February 8 — the day before the opening ceremony for the Olympics — and satellite photos have shown soldiers and armored vehicles rehearsing for a possible parade that would amount to a show of military strength.
The unification ministry, which oversees relations with Pyongyang, said North Korea said South Korean press “was fanning public opinion that insults the North’s sincere efforts made for the Pyeongchang Olympics, and even took issue with the North’s internal celebratory event, leaving the North no choice but to cancel the agreed-upon event.”
Seoul has urged Pyongyang not to unwind the agreements further.