UPDATE : 2018.8.15 WED 08:22
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N. Korea art troupe, cheering squad to visit South this week

North Korea's art troupe and cheering squad for the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics will travel to the South this week, with details about its high-level delegation yet to be confirmed, officials here said Sunday.

The 140-member Samjiyon art troupe, which includes an orchestra, will cross the inter-Korean border Tuesday. Its advance team, mostly technical staffers, will arrive here a day earlier.

The troupe's first performance will be held at Gangneung Arts Center on Thursday, followed by a concert at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul on Feb. 11.

A 230-member cheering squad and a taekwondo demonstration team will come to the South via a land route Wednesday.

The cheering squad is expected to root not only for its national athletes but possibly for South Korean teams. A total of 22 North Korean athletes are set to compete in five sports, including women's ice hockey and figure skating, during the Feb. 9-25 Olympic Games.

The North's taekwondo athletes will hold four joint demonstrations with its South Korean counterparts, starting Feb. 9 in a warmup event at the opening ceremony of the Winter Games in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul.

Nothing has been confirmed about the formation of the North's delegation of high-level officials. Speculation abounds that Pyongyang will make a surprise announcement on it shortly before the Olympic Games begin.

Some observers say that the reclusive state could send Choe Ryong-hae, the vice chairman of the Central Committee of its ruling Workers' Party. Choe, seen as the country's No. 2 man, traveled to the South during the Asian Games in Incheon in 2014.

Kim Yong-nam, president of North Korea's Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, is also being mentioned as a possible figure to lead the North's delegation, given that he is the North's titular head of state.

This image, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows North Korean athletes set to join the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)

United Front Department head Kim Yong-chul is also floated as a possible delegation chief, but his visit could stir anti-North sentiment in the South, considering that he is known to have orchestrated the 2010 torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

Choe Hwi, the chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee, could also lead the North's delegation, observers said.

Choe Ryong-hae and Kim Yong-chul are on the South's list of individual sanctions that call for their asset freeze, while Choe Hwi has been on the list of U.N. Security Council sanctions that involve a travel ban. (Yonhap)

Lee Sam-sun  edt@koreapost.com

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