NATIONAL

NK proposes to hold working-level talks next week on art troupe's visit to S. Korea

By Yonhap
  • Published : Jan 13, 2018 - 15:10
  • Updated : Jan 14, 2018 - 10:06
South Korea on Saturday agreed to meet North Korea next week over the latter's plan to send an art troupe south of the border during the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The unification ministry accepted an offer made by North Korea earlier in the day to hold a working-level meeting Monday at Tongilgak, a North Korean building in the truce village of Panmunjom.

According to the ministry, South Korea's delegation will be led by Lee Woo-sung, head of the culture and arts policy office at the culture ministry, along with Korean Symphony Orchestra's CEO Lee Won-choul, its artistic director, Chong Chi-yong, and Han Jong-wook, who heads an inter-Korean dialogue division under the unification ministry's Office of Inter-Korean Dialogue.

(Yonhap)

Pyongyang earlier offered to send four arts officials, led by Kwon Hyok-bong, former head of the North's Unhasu Orchestra, who is now director of the performing arts bureau at the culture ministry. The North's delegation also includes Hyon Song-wol, the leader of the all-female Moranbong Band.

Given the presence of music-related officials on both sides, the Koreas could discuss having a joint music performance during the Olympics.

Hyon's inclusion has fueled speculation that her Moranbong Band could have its first show in South Korea.

Hyon, believed to be in her late 30s, is reportedly a former girlfriend of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Her band, formed in 2012 by Kim, is known for performing North Korean propaganda songs and some Western pop music.

Hyon was once rumored to have been executed but has since re-emerged, and she earned a spot on the ruling Workers' Party of Korea's Central Committee last year.

The two Koreas held their first high-level talks in two years Tuesday, and the North 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.

While agreeing to the talk on the troupe's visit, the unification ministry also called on Pyongyang to quickly respond to Seoul's offer of a separate meeting on North Korea's participation in the Olympics.

When proposing the talk on the art troupe's visit, North Korea told South Korea that it will make its decision on the Olympic meeting at a later date. This could come as early as Sunday.

During Tuesday's talks, South Korea suggested the two Koreas march in as one during the opening ceremony, but North Korea didn't have an immediate response. Seoul officials said afterward the two sides were getting closer on an agreement on the joint march.

South Korea has also proposed assembling a joint women's hockey team.

Separately, the International Olympic Committee has scheduled a four-party meeting at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Jan. 20 with representatives from PyeongChang's Olympic organizing committee and the national Olympic bodies of the two Koreas. IOC President Thomas Bach will chair the meeting, which the IOC said "will take a series of essential decisions," including the number and names of North Korean athletes to participate in PyeongChang, and issues related to flags, anthems, ceremonies and uniforms.



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