South Korea said Friday it plans to financially support North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Games in a way that doesn't weaken tough international sanctions on the North.
The two Koreas agreed in a meeting Wednesday to conduct joint training for skiers at Masikryong Ski Resort on the North's east coast as they discussed details about the North's participation in the Feb. 9-25 games.
It sparked a heated debate here as critics say that the ski exercise could promote the ski resort, one of the North's leader Kim Jong-un's pet projects.
The ski resort, which opened in December 2013, was built with imports of luxury items banned under U.N. sanctions resolutions, including snowmobiles and other high-end goods.
North Korea's state media reported, "The Korean people are leading a highly civilized and happy life at the resort built under the meticulous care of supreme leader Kim Jong-un."
"An advance inspection team plans to look at the situation (related to the resort, while being aware of such worries)," Lee Eugene, vice spokesperson at the ministry, told a press briefing. The team will leave for the North on Tuesday for a three-day on-site inspection of the ski resort and a facility at Mount Kumgang for a joint cultural event.
Adding to a row over the ski resort, critics said that Seoul's financial support for the North's participation in the Olympics could weaken the united front in enforcing international sanctions.
"The government is well aware of the seriousness about North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. There is no change in our stance that we will go with international coordination in employing actions and pressure on the North," Lee said.
Asked whether Choe Ryong-hae, a ranking North Korean official blacklisted in Seoul's sanctions, can visit the South, she said, "The government plans to carefully manage the issue of the high-level delegation while not violating sanctions."
She said that it is too easy to calculate expenses to cover the North's delegation of at least 400 people as it needs to take into account tightly imposed multilayered sanctions.
"The international community has tightened the screws on the North. As we slapped the so-called May 24 punitive measures and other unilateral sanctions, we will handle the situation with great care," Lee said.
She referred to a set of sanctions imposed on May 24, 2010, to punish the North's sinking of a South Korean warship.
The ministry said that it plans to calculate accommodation expenses after taking into account the outcome of a Saturday meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The IOC will host a meeting with officials from the two Koreas to finalize details of the North's Olympic cooperation in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Yonhap)