By Hyunjoo Jin and Jane Chung
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea is expecting a large North Korean delegation at next month’s Winter Olympics, likely including the country’s main symphony orchestra, the governor for the Games’ host province said on Monday, as relations appear to start hitting the right note.
Choi Moon-soon, governor of Gangwon province, told Reuters the orchestra may hold a joint concert with South Korean musicians during the Games, which open in Pyeongchang, just 80 km (50 miles) from the world’s most heavily fortified border, on Feb. 9.
North Korea, still technically at war with the South, is pursuing missile and nuclear programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions and regularly threatens to destroy the United States and its two key Asian allies, South Korea and Japan.
But a bellicose war of words with the United States has eased in recent days with talk of the North taking part in the Olympics.
The two Koreas met on Monday to discuss North Korea sending artists to the Olympics after Pyongyang said it would send athletes, cheerleaders, performers and others to the Games during its first formal dialogue with the South in more than two years.
“At the moment, I think North Korea’s orchestra is most likely to come and I heard the North has proposed (to send) their orchestra,” the governor said.
“That would be about 140 people, and we may have to change the concert hall… Things are progressing faster and larger than we thought,” he said, without elaborating on the venue.
Choi met North Korean sports officials last month in China on the sidelines of a youth soccer tournament and proposed the North’s delegation travel to South Korea via a cruise, sparking concerns such move would violate the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“I think there would be no problem,” he said. “Our interpretation is that matters related to Olympics are not subject to sanctions.”
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Jane Chung; Editing by Nick Macfie)