South Korean Skiers Head To A North Korean Resort

Michelle Cho, Jan. 31, 2018, 9:28 a.m.


Plans for cross-border events coinciding with the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang were in disarray Tuesday, little more than a week after the two Koreas agreed on them. Up-and-coming skiers from North and South Korea will still train at the North's Masikryong Ski Resort, even though Pyongyang a day earlier called off a cultural performance at Mt. Kumgang scheduled for Feb. 4. By late Tuesday night the government was still unable to get official confirmation.

The Unification Ministry sent a message to North Korea earlier in the day calling the cancellation of the Mt. Kumgang performance "very regrettable." A ministry official said the message urged the North to follow through on the agreed terms as the two sides "take the first step toward improving inter-Korean relations."

Cheong Wa Dae appeared rattled by North Korea's action but opted to take a wait-and-see approach.

Unification Ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun told the Chosun Ilbo, "There is nothing that needs to be mediated with the North" regarding the ski training plans. "Discussions with the U.S. are being delayed due to the time difference, but we hope to fine-tune details soon."

The "fine-tuning" the spokesman was talking about refers to the use of an airplane to transport South Korean skiers to North Korea and carrying North Korean athletes aboard South Koreans aircraft, which would violate U.S. sanctions against the North.

The U.S. government bans ships and airplanes that have traveled to North Korea from American ports and airports.

South Korean athletes nonetheless headed to Yangyang, Gangwon Province en route to Masikryong while awaiting the U.S.' response.

Overnight, Washington agreed to make an exception, so the South Korean skiers boarded a chartered plane at Yangyang on Wednesday morning to fly to the North. They are to be shuttled by bus to the resort for training and fly back to South Korea on Thursday.

North Korean Olympic skiers are to board the same aircraft to take part in the Winter Olympics.

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