Seoul Lavishes Money on N.Korean Olympics Delegation

  • By Lee Yong-soo

    February 02, 2018 11:11

    The government had already diverted more than W250 million from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund as of Thursday to help North Korea take part in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang (US$1=W1,072).

    That is expected to snowball once all 500 members of a massive cheerleading squad, an orchestra, and a Taekwondo demonstration team arrive here around the time the Olympics open.

    The government is not saying what the money has been spent on, despite fears that its support could violate UN and U.S. sanctions against the North Korean regime.

    North Korean athletes and officials board a charted airplane at Kalma Airport in Wonsan, Kangwon Province on Thursday. /Newsis

    In a closed-door session on Jan. 25, the Unification Ministry earmarked W53 million just for the launch and operation of a government support team and another W95 million for control rooms in Pyeongchang and Seoul, according to an opposition source on Thursday.

    The ministry spent W90 million sending a chartered Asiana plane to the North for joint ski training of junior skiers at Masikryong Ski Resort there. It also reportedly spent W11 million on a special KTX bullet train for a group of North Korean officials led by bandleader-cum-apparatchik Hyon Song-wol.

    The ministry kept the meeting secret and admitted it only after media reports Thursday.

    "The government is diverting money for the North Korean delegation from the budget of the organizing committee of the Olympics," a government official said. "We need to make up for the expenses from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund later."

    The expenses the 47 North Korean athletes who arrived by Thursday will be borne by the International Olympic Committee.

    But the expenses for hundreds of North Korean cheerleaders and other support officials, including accommodation, transportation and meals "will likely exceed W2 billion," a former ministry official said.

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