North Korea Cancels Pre-Olympic Event, Blaming South Korean Media
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Monday canceled a joint cultural event it had planned to hold with South Korea early next month, blaming “insulting” South Korean news media coverage of its participation in the Winter Olympics, South Korean officials said.
When the two Koreas agreed this month that the North would send a delegation to the Olympics being held in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang, they also agreed to hold a joint pre-Olympic cultural performance in the North’s Mount Kumgang resort on Feb. 4.
But it informed the South on Monday night that it was canceling that program. South Korea had planned to send K-pop bands and other musicians to perform alongside North Korean art troupes at Mount Kumgang.
The North’s sudden decision did not affect its plan to send 22 athletes to the Games or its separate plan to send an art troupe, consisting of a pop orchestra and dancers, to the South to perform before and during the Olympics, which begin on Feb. 8. Still, it showed the unpredictability of the North Korean government.
“It’s deeply regrettable,” the South Korean government said in a statement on Monday night, urging the North to reconsider its decision.
In his New Year’s Day speech, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, proposed sending a delegation to the Pyeongchang Olympics. South Korea, which has called for the North’s participation, welcomed the proposal. In the ensuing dialogue, both sides agreed to march together in the opening ceremony and field a joint team in women’s ice hockey, the first inter-Korean Olympic team ever.
Those agreements raised the prospect of improving ties between the two Koreas after years of tensions spurred by the North’s nuclear and missile tests. But they were not welcomed by South Koreans as heartily as the two governments had hoped.
Recent surveys have shown that many South Koreans are skeptical about forming a joint Olympic team or marching together with North Korea, which has been threatening its neighbors with nuclear weapons. Analysts in the South have also warned that they believe that the North is sending an Olympic delegation in an attempt to create a false mood for dialogue and weaken international resolve to enforce sanctions against the country.
After an advance team returned from the North Korean resort last week, South Korean officials said they might have to generate their own electricity for the music performances there because of the North’s poor energy supply. But conservative South Korean news media outlets said that taking fuel oil to Mount Kumgang might violate United Nations sanctions.
North Korea agreed to send its Olympic delegation only after the South suggested that it would postpone its joint annual military exercises with the United States during the Olympics. But South Koreans have learned in the past week that the North was preparing for a major military parade on the eve of the South’s Olympics.
In what appeared to be a reference to the military parade, North Korea said Monday that it was also insulted by South Korean news media’s criticism of its “internal celebration,” South Korean officials said. Last week, North Korea designated Feb. 8 as the new anniversary of its military and said it would mark the day with various celebrations.
Earlier this month, North Korea canceled its plan to send an advance team to inspect South Korean concert halls where its art troupe will perform. But it later reversed that decision and the North Korean team, headed by a well-known singer, visited the South a day later than scheduled, setting off a media frenzy here.