Seoul (AFP) – North Korea has informed Seoul it will send a delegation on Sunday to prepare cultural performances during the Winter Olympics, the South’s unification minister said, a day after Pyongyang abruptly cancelled the visit.
The North had initially planned to send a seven-member advance team headed by the leader of a popular all-female Western-style band for a two-day visit from Saturday to inspect venues for proposed performances in Seoul and the eastern city of Gangneung.
Hyon Song-Wol, reportedly an ex-girlfriend of leader Kim Jong-Un, would be the first North Korean official to visit the South in four years.
But Pyongyang said late Friday it had suspended the plan, giving no reason.
“The North informed us that it will send the arts delegation on Sunday”, a day later than initially planned, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Hyon was the subject of lurid 2013 reports in the South that she and around a dozen other state musicians had been executed for appearing in porn movies.
Pyongyang angrily denied the claims and Hyon later appeared on state television.
The two Koreas have agreed to march together under a unification flag — a pale blue silhouette of the Korean peninsula — at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on February 9, and to form a unified women’s ice hockey team.
But critics in the South have said a unified team would disrupt the side and deprive some Southern squad members of the chance to play on the Olympic stage.
The conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party has strongly objected to the agreement, arguing the North is seeking to exploit the South’s Olympics for its own propaganda.
“The Pyeongchang Olympics is becoming like a Pyongyang Olympics”, its leader Hong Jun-Pyo said on Friday.
A Realmeter poll released Thursday showed only 40.5 percent of South Koreans supported the joint march under a unification flag.
A larger share — 49.4 percent — were in favour of the neighbours holding their own national flags.
In 2015, the Moranbong Band led by Hyon cancelled a series of concerts in Beijing just hours before they were due on stage, reportedly because of disputes over stage backdrop footage showing a North Korean missile being launched.