North Korea to hold further Olympic talks with South

North agrees to send 140-member Samjiyon orchestra to South for first time since 2002

North Korea will hold fresh talks with South Korea on Wednesday about taking part in next month's Winter Olympics, shortly after threatening to withdraw from the games over South Korean president Moon Jae-in's praise for Donald Trump.

The two Koreas, which have been divided since the Korean War ended in 1953 without a peace treaty, had their first formal talks in over two years last week, at the end of which the North said it would send a delegation including athletes, cheerleaders, a performance troupe and officials to the games in Pyeongchang in South Korea.

North Korea will also send the 140-member Samjiyon orchestra to South Korea during the games, to play a concert in Seoul and in a sub-host city of the games. It will be the first performance by North Korean musicians in the South since 2002.

The talks on Wednesday will take place in the peace village of Panmunjom at the demilitarised zone dividing the peninsula.


The South has also proposed assembling a joint women’s hockey team with North Korea at the Olympics.

Tensions have been high over Pyongyang’s programme of nuclear tests and missile launches and last week’s talks have been seen as a positive development.

Trump credit

However, in a sign of how fragile the situation remains, North Korea threatened to withdraw over Mr Moon’s remarks at a press conference giving credit to Mr Trump for the resumption of inter-Korean talks.

"They should know that the train and bus carrying our delegation to the Olympics are still in Pyongyang," North's Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The agency described Mr Moon’s comments as “boding ill”, “upsetting” and “rubbish”.

“The present South Korean chief executive’s attitude casts doubt as to his intent to improve the North-South ties and build confidence,” it said, quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

The two sides met earlier on Monday to discuss the logistics of North Korea sending an art troupe to the games and will also hold separate talks, hosted by the International Olympics Committee, on January 20th.

"We believe that a great symphony will be enthusiastically received. In that sense, we hope that the talks could go smoothly so as to help our art troupe perform well in the South," Kwon Hyok-bong, the North's chief delegate, said at the start of the meeting.

Mr Kwon was formerly the leader of the North's Unhasu orchestra and is currently director of the performing arts bureau at the culture ministry in Pyongyang. Also taking part in the delegation was Hyon Song-wol, leader of the all-woman Moranbong band, one of the North's star propaganda groups.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing