A South Korean delegation to the North for the first time in almost two years
An aerial view of the village of Seohwa-Myeon on the border between the two Koreans, January 17, 2018
A South Korean delegation entered the North for the first time in almost two years as part of preparations for the Olympics, while Pyongyang asks Seoul for an apology after a hostile demonstration in the South.
The Pyeongchang Olympics (9-25 February), in South Korea, allowed a spectacular rapprochement between the two enemy brothers after two years of tension because of the acceleration of Pyongyang’s ballistic and nuclear programs.
But the peace efforts of South Korean center-left President Moon Jae-In are far from unanimous in the South, with some accusing him of going too far in concessions.
The two Koreas have just decided that the North would participate in the Olympics, that the two camps would march together behind a unified Korea flag or that there would be a women’s ice hockey team.
Seoul will also send skiers to North Korea’s Masikryong Station to train with North Korean athletes. South Korea will also participate in a cultural event with the North in the North Korean region of Mount Kumgang.
Since the surprise announcement, on January 1 by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, of a possible North Korean participation in the Games, the peninsula has been the scene of intense diplomatic activity.
And Tuesday, 12 South Korean officials have entered the North, for a visit that is expected to last three days and is the first in nearly two years, according to the South Korean agency Yonhap.
– ‘Rejection of humanity’ –
Seoul has long presented its Olympic Games as “Games of Peace” able to relieve inter-Korean tensions.
But in the South, some blame the head of state for sacrificing the Olympic dream of some athletes of the South on the altar of politics.
And on Monday, a group even burned a North Korean flag and an effigy of Mr. Kim during a demonstration in Seoul.
Acts ineligible for the Committee for the Pacific Reunification of Korea, which manages inter-Korean affairs in the North and called the protesters “waste of humanity lacking human appearance”.
“This is a disgusting group of gangsters,” the committee said in a statement issued by the North Korean official KCNA, pointing to “an unacceptable hate crime.”
Seoul, he said, must “apologize to the nation” for this provocation, and take steps to ensure it is not repeated.
In response to the growing controversy and protests, the South Korean presidency on Tuesday urged the population to similarly welcome all countries participating in the Games.
“The people must be united,” spokesman Park Soo-Hyun told reporters. “We must welcome our guests with dignity.”
– Military parade north –
The visit of the South Korean delegation comes the day after the end of a visit, in the opposite direction, of a North Korean delegation, which was the first in four years.
This Northern delegation, led by the leader of the pop-women’s group Moranbong – extremely popular in the North – came to prepare for the coming of the North Korean artists’ games to be held in the South, as agreed in the inter-Korean agreement.
Another delegation from the North will come to Seoul on Thursday to check the logistics of hosting the North Korean delegation during the Games.
Despite this sporting relaxation, North Korea is preparing a lavish military parade for February 8, the eve of the opening of the Olympics, confirmed Tuesday the official media in North Korea.
In recent years the North celebrated the anniversary of his army on April 25, in memory of the day in 1932 when the founder of the regime Kim Il-Sung would have created guerrilla war against the Japanese occupier.
But the ruling Workers Party in Pyongyang announced that North Korea will now mark February 8, when the same People’s Army (KPA) created the People’s Army of Korea (JPA) in 1948.
Until 1978, the anniversary of the army was celebrated in February. This change gives an official justification to the parade that is preparing for the North for the eve of the opening of the Games.
A senior South Korean government official told Yonhap that the preparations were in full swing, saying 13,000 North Korean troops and 200 vehicles had been spotted at Mirin air base near Pyongyang.