South Korean team heads to North for joint training event

A team of athletes from South Korea has headed to North Korea to participate in joint training there, as the two countries attempt to use the upcoming Winter Olympics to ease tensions despite some setbacks.

A delegation of 45 people — including 20 skiers, support staff, and journalists — departed in a chartered Asiana Airlines plane, the first direct flight to the North since 2015, from Yangyang International Airport in northeastern South Korea to Kalma Airport in North Korea’s Wonsan on Wednesday, the South’s Ministry of Unification said.

The skiers, who will take part in the joint event in the North’s Masikryong ski resort, are reserve members of South Korea’s national team and won’t be participating in the Winter Games, which will start in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang on February 9.

Masikryong has 10 ski runs, with the longest one stretching as far as 5,100 meters.

The team will fly back on Thursday accompanied by North Korean alpine and cross-country skiers to take part in the Winter Games, the ministry said.

Pyongyang had on Monday night cancelled a joint cultural event at North Korea’s Diamond Mountain on February 4, blaming South Korean media for encouraging “insulting” public sentiment about the North.

That had caused uncertainties about whether a nascent thaw in inter-Korean relations would last.

Seoul had stressed afterwards that it would push forward discussions with North Korea on the holding of other joint events.

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