UPDATE : 2018.11.17 SAT 17:21
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Koreas set to hold talks on N.K. art troupe's trip during Winter Olympics

South and North Korea are set to hold working-level talks Monday to discuss the North's plan to send an art troupe to the South during next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The two sides will open the talks at 10:00 a.m. on the North side of the shared border village of Panmunjom, in the follow-up to their high-level talks held last week, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

Last week, North Korea agreed to send a delegation of athletes, cheerleaders, an art troupe and taekwondo demonstration teams, along with high-ranking officials, to the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Olympics in the South.

The move comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un extended a rare rapprochement to Seoul, expressing willingness to hold dialogue with the South.

"A North Korean art troupe's potential trip is gaining attention at home and abroad," Lee Woo-sung, a senior official at the Seoul's culture ministry and the South's chief delegate, told reporters before departure. "We will calmly hold the talks to produce good results."

This photo, taken Jan. 15, 2018, shows Lee Woo-sung (C), South Korea's chief delegate, speaking to reporters in Seoul before heading to North Korea for inter-Korean talks on the North's plan to send an art troupe to the South during next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)

Both sides are expected to work out details, such as the number of performers, their travel route and schedules.

The North's chief delegate is Kwon Hyok-bong, former head of the North's Unhasu Orchestra and now director of the performing arts bureau at the culture ministry. Its delegation also includes Hyon Song-wol, the leader of the all-female Moranbong Band.

The Moranbong Band was established in July 2012 by the North's leader Kim Jong-un, featuring Western-style music and outfits.

The government on Friday proposed holding working-level talks on the North's participation in the games. But the North instead offered talks on the art troupe.

While accepting the North's proposal, the ministry called on Pyongyang to quickly respond to its dialogue offer. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) plans to hold a meeting with officials from the two Koreas on Saturday in Lausanne, Switzerland, to discuss details of the North's participation.

Last week, the South proposed the two Koreas' athletes jointly march at the opening ceremony, which the North is said to be "positively" considering. Seoul also offered assembling a joint women's hockey team with North Korea at the Olympics.

"The North is expected to respond to the proposal soon," Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told reporters. "There is a high possibility (for the working-level talks to be held this week)." (Yonhap)

Kim Jung-mi  edt@koeapost.com

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