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(3rd LD) N. Korea calls off joint Olympic event at Mount Kumgang: Seoul

2018/01/30 00:51

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(ATTN: CHANGES dateline; UPDATES with more information, minor edits; RESTRUCTURES)

SEOUL, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has called off a joint cultural event scheduled to be held in its country to celebrate the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, Seoul officials said Monday.

The abrupt notification came in a telegram sent to South Korea at 10:10 p.m., saying the North was canceling the event scheduled to be held Feb.4, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

The communist state was known to have cited what it claimed to be "biased" media reports about the upcoming event.

The unification ministry said the North also took issue with South Korean reports about its "internal event," apparently referring to reports about a possible military parade marking the 70th anniversary of its military on Feb. 8, one day before the start of the Winter Olympic Games.

The Seoul government expressed disappointment, noting the North's decision may undermine what it earlier called a "hard-earned" chance to improve inter-Korean relations.

"It is very regrettable that an event agreed by the South and the North will not be held due to North Korea's unilateral notification (decision)," the ministry said in a statement. "What has been agreed must be implemented under the spirit of mutual respect and understanding as the South and the North have only taken a hard-earned first step toward improving the South-North relationship."

   The event at Mount Kumgang was to be part of a series of events to be held in the divided Koreas ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The agreement to hold such events came after three rounds of talks between the two Koreas that also marked the first inter-Korean dialogue in more than two years.

North Korea has also agreed to stage art performances and taekwondo demonstrations in South Korea to commemorate its participation in the Winter Olympics.

Many local news outlets here, however, have voiced concerns over the joint events in that they may be in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions currently in place against the communist North for its military provocations, including six nuclear tests.

The North is also set to host a group of South Korean skiers for a joint training session with its own athletes at its Masikryong Ski Resort on the east coast, reportedly from Wednesday.

Whether the other events will be held as scheduled could not immediately be confirmed. The scheduled events include art performances by a North Korean art troupe in Gangneung, near the host city of the Winter Olympic Games, and Seoul.