EMILY CARMAN WRITES – North Korea withdrew its participation from a pre-Olympic intercultural event set to take place on Monday, February 4. The event would have combined popular artists from the North and South, and was set to take place at the Mt. Kumgang Resort in North Korea, a location agreed upon as a measure to strengthen cross-border ties. North Korea suddenly canceled the event citing negative South Korean media coverage.
According to United Press International, a notice was received from Pyongyang a week before the event was scheduled to take place, saying the North had “no choice but to cancel the concert as the South Korean media goes to the length of disputing the North’s internal events, while continuing to stir up controversy that insults the North’s sincere measures.”
The “internal events” refers to a large military parade that the North has scheduled the day before the opening ceremonies would begin. Just last week, North Korea designated February 8 as the new anniversary of its military and said it marks a day with various celebrations, according to the New York Times.
The announcement of the military parade received harsh criticism from South Korean media outlets, who called the celebration “provocative” and even ironic, since the North only agreed to send an Olympic delegation if joint annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States were postponed.
In addition, the South China Morning Post reported that South Korean media “voiced concerns that the joint events planned by the two Koreas in the lead-up to and during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics may violate UN Security Council sanctions in place against Pyongyang over its ballistic missile and nuclear tests.”
Last week, an advanced team from South Korea returned from inspecting the Mt. Kumgang resort and officials concluded that because of the North’s poor energy supply, they would have to generate their own electricity for their performances during the intercultural event. Conservative South Korean news media outlets responded negatively, saying that taking fuel oil to Mount Kumgang would violate United Nations sanctions.
Although the North blamed South Korean news coverage for the cancellation of the event, some experts believe that the North may have had other reasons for its withdrawal.
Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University who spoke with UPI, said that “the North is likely to have been discontent with Seoul consulting the United States on inter-Korean events to avoid violating global sanctions.”
Cho Sung-ryeol, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, believes that “the cancellation could be a means of pressuring the South as it shows no signs of canceling joint military drills with the U.S.,” something North Korea has called for even after the Olympics end.
In addition to withdrawing its participation in the intercultural event, North Korea also lashed out at South Korean media outlets, “calling the Games’ conservative critics in the South ‘human scum’ and accusing them of ‘unpardonable atrocities’,” according to another article from the New York Times.
A statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency read, “if these traitors and psychopaths defaming the dignified Korean nation are allowed to go scot free, the national reconciliation, unity and the building of a reunified powerful country will be delayed so much.”
The cancellation of the intercultural event is not the first time North Korea backed out last minute from a pre-Olympic event. North Korea previously canceled the visit of a cultural delegation, meant to inspect the South’s performing arts facilities, the night before the team was due to arrive. They did so without providing an excuse. The delegation arrived the next day when no one was expecting them.
If these previous cancellations are any indication of the future, North Korea will leave South Korea and the world on its toes throughout the remainder of the Olympic Games.