North Korean music and arts officials arrived in South Korea on Sunday, the first of a series of visits to prepare for the North’s last-minute participation in next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
South Korean broadcaster YTN reported the first delegation had arrived in Seoul early Sunday under a heavy police presence, then boarded a train to Gangwon province, where the Olympics will be held from February 9-25.
The officials are scheduled to spend two days inspecting art centers in Seoul and Gangneung city, which will also host several of the Olympic events.
Pyongyang said on Sunday it also plans to send another team of sports officials to inspect Olympic venues and accommodations from January 25-27, South Korea’s unification ministry said.
In a diplomatic breakthrough after a year of escalating tension over the North’s nuclear and missile program, the North will send 22 athletes to the Winter Games and compete in three sports and five disciplines, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Saturday.
Sunday’s seven-member North Korean delegation, led by musician Hyon Song-wol, had been scheduled to visit on Saturday to check venues for performances by a 140-strong art troupe at the Olympics, but canceled just before the visit with no explanation.
Officials from both Korea’s used a cross-border hotline to reschedule the visit.
The visit to the South marks the first by North Koreans since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in May last year and sought to re-engage with the North.
Also on Sunday, South Korean officials said Pyongyang had accepted proposals for South Koreans to travel to North Korea for joint athletic training at the Masikryong Ski Resort and a cultural event at Mount Kumgang, a once popular tourist area. (Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Michael Perry)