A South Korean delegation arrived to North Korea on Wednesday for a joint ski training session, reported the Yonhap News Agency.
The South’s 45-member delegation, comprised of 24 skiers on the substitute roster for the national team, coaches, supporting staff and journalists, arrived at the famous Masikryong Ski Resort on a chartered Asiana Airlines jet after the United States approved the flight.
The two-day trip has been planned as a conciliatory gesture to mark the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The skiers are planned to return on Thursday accompanied by 10 North Korean athletes – six skiers, two figure skaters and two short-track speed skaters – who have been invited to participate in Pyeongchang.
South Korean athletes have begun a two-day visit to North Korea for a joint training program at the Masikryong ski resort, Yonhap reports. pic.twitter.com/cR1OMfWB55— BBC Monitoring (@BBCMonitoring) 31 January 2018
Time for inter-Korean relations
The South Korean government has stated that an inter-Korean reconciliation would help efforts to denuclearize the North and to promote stability in the zone.
Sports and cultural activities are part of Seoul’s appeasement project.
Last September, the United States government announced a new set of sanctions against Pyeongyang, including a ban of vessels and aircrafts that have visited North Korea from entering the U.S. within 180 days.
In order to send the ski delegation, South Korea asked Washington to exempt the extraordinary flight from, the restrictions.
'There was U.S. concern and the airline's concern as well (in connection with sanctions),' Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman for the Ministry of Unification, said at a press briefing.
Despite the implementation of the joint ski training session, earlier this week, North Korea abruptly informed the South that it would call off a joint cultural event scheduled for February 4.
According to officials and experts in Seoul, the cancellation comes after South Korean news reports criticized the plan to stage a military parade on the eve of the opening of the Olympics.