SEOUL – North Korea has cancelled the advance visit of a group of artists, which was scheduled for Saturday, to South Korea to prepare for their performances during the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, without giving any reason for this decision.
Pyongyang communicated its decision to Seoul on Friday, less than a day after proposing to send an advance group to visit the venues where the North Korean shows are planned, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry on Saturday.
North Korea had planned to send a seven-member group headed by Hyon Song-wol, the lead singer of the Moranbong group, the most popular North Korean band and promoted by leader Kim Jong-un, to visit the venues in Seoul and Gangneung (about 260 kilometers east of Seoul).
The advance group was expected to travel to South Korea by land route, crossing on the western border and stay in the country for two days, the Ministry explained.
Seoul does not know if the North has definitively canceled this visit or has decided to postpone it, and intends to clarify the situation, the South Korean Unification Minister, Cho Myung-gyon, said in statements to the local news agency Yonhap.
Experts fear that the North’s abrupt unilateral decision could undermine the recent rapprochement that both countries have adopted for the Olympic Games celebrations, and which was a respite after months of heightened tension on the peninsula in the wake of Pyongyang’s weapons tests.
During the work meeting held by Seoul and Pyongyang on Jan. 15, in which Hyon herself participated, they agreed the North will send an artistic group of 140 members (orchestra, singers and dancers) who will perform several concerts and performances during the Olympics celebrations.
This artistic group, called “Samjiyon Orchestra,” will be part of the North Korean delegation for the Winter Games, to be held Feb. 9-25, which also includes some 230 cheerleaders, athletes and officials of the Kim Jong-un regime.
Seoul and Pyongyang have held two work meetings in the last two weeks to discuss details of the games, the first held after more than two years, and have also agreed to resume high-level talks, which Seoul aspires to be able to hold on a regular basis.