South Korean skiers travel to N. Korea for joint training sessions

Ha Jung-woo (right) in “1987: When the Day Comes” (Korean Film Council)
Representational picture Korean Film Council

A group of South Korean skiers on Wednesday travelled to North Korea to attend a joint training session with North Korean athletes, as part of the agreements reached between the two countries ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

The plane with the South Korean 45-member delegation on board took off from the small Yangyang International Airport, in eastern South Korea, and headed to the Kalma military airport in North Korea after the joint training was confirmed by both countries, a spokesperson for the South Korean Unification Ministry told Efe.

The South Korean athletes will participate in joint training sessions at the Masikryong Ski Resort together with the North Korean skiers on Wednesday and Thursday, and will then head back.

The cancellation of a joint cultural event on Monday had raised doubts about whether or not the symbolic joint training would finally take place.

Pyongyang blamed South Korean media for producing biased reports on North Korea's military activities, which led them to suspend the cultural event.

In addition, South Korea had to wait for the United States' approval regarding the departure of the chartered Asiana flight transporting their athletes to North Korea, as Pyongyang still faces sanctions imposed by Washington over its nuclear programme.

The joint training sessions were part of the agreement reached between the two Koreas earlier in January, which allowed North Korea to participate in the Winter Olympic Games, starting on February 9 in the South Korean county of Pyeongchang.

This sports event is expected to promote regional rapprochement on the Korean peninsula after a year of tension marked by North Korea's continuous weapons tests and the aggressive rhetoric by the US against the Pyongyang regime.