January 18, 2018 09:27
North and South Korea will hold a celebration in the North's scenic Mt. Kumgang resort on the eve of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and have skiers from both sides will train in Masikryong Ski Resort on North Korea's east coast.
South Korean officials made the proposal during talks in the border truce village of Panmunjom on Wednesday and North Korea agreed. The latest agreement raises fears that package tours to Mt. Kumgang could resume and provide the North with cash for its nuclear and missile programs, and that Seoul could weaken economic sanctions against North Korea.
The two Koreas also agreed to form a joint women's ice hockey team, to be finalized in a meeting with the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland on Saturday. South Korea proposed adding three North Korean women to the 23-member South Korean women's ice hockey team, but North Korea wants to send six.
The North hopes to send a 30-member sports delegation to Pyeongchang, including coaches and support staff. The athletes who will be training in Masikryong Ski Resort will not be Olympic competitors but future hopefuls.
The two Koreas also agreed to use a "unification flag" when their teams march together during the opening ceremony. It will be the first Olympics where the host country does not fly its own national flag.
North Korea also wants to send a 230-member cheerleading squad to the Olympics to perform in Seoul and Pyeongchang, plus another 140 performers. The North then wants to send a 150-strong delegation including athletes and reporters to the following Paralympics.
The North Korean delegation will come to South Korea on the land route used by businesses in the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex through Dorasan and Paju. But the performers will walk through the border truce village of Panmunjom.
The athletes arrive on Feb. 1, and Olympic officials, cheerleaders, a taekwondo demonstration team and reporters will come on Feb. 7. A group of North Korean officials will arrive between Jan. 25 and 27 to inspect sports facilities in Pyeongchang.
The two sides did not discuss the composition of the North's high-level delegation during the latest talks.
Opposition lawmakers here criticized the agreement, warning that the government could become a victim of a North Korean propaganda blitz. Others said using Masikryong Ski Resort could violate South Korean sanctions against North Korea. One source in the Liberty Korea Party said, "South Korean athletes must pay to use the resort, which would constitute a violation of our own sanctions."
The ruling Minjoo Party welcomed to latest agreements.
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