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Seoul demands explanation for cancellation of NK team's planned visit

South Korea on Saturday demanded North Korea explain the abrupt canceling of a visit by its team in preparing for performances during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next month in the South. 


"We sent a document (to the North) at around 11:20 a.m. via the Panmunjom communications channel demanding an explanation for the North's cancellation to dispatch its cultural advance inspection team," Unification Minister Cho Myung-gyon said in a press briefing at the ministry.

The minister's remarks came as the North notified the South late Friday that it will suspend the seven-member team's trip originally slated for earlier Saturday to check the venues for its proposed art performances in the South. 

The two-day trip was originally arranged after Pyongyang said it would send a team led by Hyon Song-wol, leader of the North's all-female Moranbong Band. The band was created by order of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in July 2012 and features Western-style music and outfits.

In working-level talks with the South held Monday, North Korea agreed to send a 140-member art troupe, consisting of an orchestra, singers and dancers, for concerts in Seoul and Gangnueng, 260 kilometers east of the capital, during next month's Winter Olympics.

"As we are fully prepared to receive the North's advance team for its art troupe, the South and the North can renegotiate the schedule and implement (any needed visits)," Cho added.

According to Cho, the South also reiterated its intention to send its own advance team to the North next week in preparing for joint training and cultural events in the North's Masikryong Ski Resort and Mount Kumgang prior the Olympics. Seoul plans to send its 12-member team via an eastern land route Tuesday for a three-day inspection.

With about three weeks remaining to the games, the North's abrupt decision late Friday has raised concerns in regards to Seoul's efforts to make the Feb. 9-25 Olympics a "peace" event through the North's participation.

A series of inter-Korean talks came after Kim Jong-un extended a rare offer of rapprochement to Seoul in his New Year's Day speech following years of nuclear and missile provocations.

The art performances during the PyeongChang Games, if held, would be the first North Korean performances in South Korea since 2002, when Pyongyang sent a cohort of 30 singers and dancers from several music and performance groups to Seoul for a joint event. (Yonhap)

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