South and North Korean skiers start joint training at Masikryong Ski Resort

Feb 01, 2018, 09:00 am

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South Korea's national alpine ski team prepares to leave at Yangyang Airport in South Korea for a joint training session at the North's Masikryong Ski Resort./ Source: Joint Press Corps

By AsiaToday reporter Heo Go-woon

South and North Korean skiers started a two-day joint training at the Masikryong Ski Resort in North Korea. As the U.S. has approved the cooperation project despite its sanctions on the North, the South Korean chartered plane that headed to the North on Wednesday will return home on Thursday carrying North Korean skiers taking part in the PyeongChang Olympic Games.

The South Korean delegation led by Lee Joo-tae, director-general for the inter-Korean exchange and cooperation at the Unification Ministry, took the plane on Wednesday morning at Yangyang Airport to make their way to the North's Kalma Airport.

The delegation is comprised of 45 people, including 31 skiers and coaches, as well as about a dozen supporting staff and reporters.

Park Jae-hyuk, the former coach of national alpine ski team who headed to the North as one of the South Korean delegates, said, "I was very excited and thought I was dreaming. As a skier, I'm very honored to be part of the joint training program."

After arriving at Kalma Airport, the delegation headed to Masikryong Ski Resort through a land route.

South Korean skiers had a training to adapt to the local circumstances. They will have alpine skiing and cross-country skiing friendly matches and a joint training Thursday before returning to the South on a chartered flight with North Korean skiers.

The Masikryong event was held under full support of the U.S. to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula. A foreign ministry official said, "As for the issue of aircraft use, the government has negotiated with Washington smoothly to avoid conflict with sanctions so that our own companies would not be affected by U.S. sanctions."

Last September, the Trump administration announced a set of sanctions that include banning aircraft that have visited North Korea from entering the U.S. within 180 days.

If a single aircraft is subject to the 180-day restriction, it may not be a big problem, but the U.S. sanctions against the North could hurt the external image of the airline and adversely affect Seoul-Washington cooperation.

As a result, the talks between South Korea and the U.S. for the exception of sanctions were held, and the arrangements had been confirmed just an hour before the departure of the South Korean delegation. "There were concerns from the United States as well as the airline," an unification ministry official said. "The United States believes that the sanctions phase need to move on to denuclearization talks in order to resolve the North Korean issue peacefully."

The United States expressed support for the successful hosting of South Korea's PyeongChang Olympics by introducing two resolutions on Monday. The resolutions included a commitment to host peaceful Olympics between the heads of South Korea and the U.S., holding high-level inter-Korean talks, and expectations for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.

Earlier this week, the North unilaterally cancelled a joint cultural event to be held at Mount Kumgang slated for Feb. 4, blaming South Korean media for encouraging "insulting" public sentiment about the North and claiming that its cancellation was a warning against them.

In response, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesperson Baik Tae-hyun said, "Regardless of the North's thoughts or intentions, we need to strengthen the peace on the Korean Peninsula by taking advantage of the North's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and the newly opened inter-Korean dialogue."

#skiers #Maskiryong Ski Resort #joint training #South Korea #North Korea 
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