Paralympics

North Korea sending 20 athletes to Paralympics

During last month's inter-Korean talks, North Korea said it would send a 150-member delegation including officials, athletes, artists and cheerleaders to the Paralympics. But after Tuesday's talks, Seoul's Unification Ministry said it seemed the North no longer intends to send artists and cheerleaders but would send 20 athletes.

Games begin on March 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea

Lee Joo-tae, second from left, director-general for the inter-Korean exchange and cooperation in the South Korean Unification Ministry, crosses to the North side for a meeting to discuss the North's participation in the upcoming Paralympics in South Korea. (Yonhap via Associated Press)

North and South Korean officials have begun working-level talks on the details of the North's participation in the Paralympics, which begin in Pyeongchang on March 9.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said the countries agreed that the North Korean delegation to the Paralympics will cross into the South via a land route on March 7.

During last month's inter-Korean talks, North Korea said it would send a 150-member delegation including officials, athletes, artists and cheerleaders to the Paralympics. But after Tuesday's talks, Seoul's Unification Ministry said it seemed the North no longer intends to send artists and cheerleaders but would send 20 athletes.

North Korea sent around 500 people to the Olympics, including officials, athletes, artists, journalists and 229 cheerleaders who amused spectators with their synchronized routines and songs.

Seoul's decision to allow Kim Yong Chol to visit sparked controversy because South Korea had accused him of being the mastermind of two attacks on the South that killed 50 people in 2010 when he headed the North's Reconnaissance General Bureau.

Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the Olympic Stadium, holding signs like "Killer Kim Yong Chol go to hell," while Kim attended Sunday's closing ceremony with President Moon and U.S. presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.

Several conservative lawmakers protested on a road near the inter-Korean land border on Tuesday, demanding Kim apologize over the attacks before leaving. Seoul's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon had breakfast with Kim and other North Korean officials earlier in the day, where they praised the Pyeongchang Olympics as a successful peace gesture, the ministry said.

Reviving inter-Korean dialogue is critical for the policies of Moon, a liberal who insists Seoul should be in control of international efforts to deal with North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

But experts say arranging an inter-Korean summit would be difficult after a year in which North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test and flight-tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could, when perfected, target the U.S. mainland. South Korea may also need to persuade the United States and Japan, which are concerned North Korea is using its outreach to Seoul to relieve pressure over its nuclear programs.

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