The South Korean government said it would provide food, fuel and electricity for the North Korean art troupe during their stay on a ferry at the South’s Mukho port on the east coast.
The Samjiyon art troupe on board the North Korean ship, Mangyongbong-92, was scheduled to arrive in Mukho around 5 p.m. on Tuesday for performances ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
“We will provide support based on the precedent of the 2002 Busan Asian Games,” an official from the South’s Unification Ministry told reporters Tuesday.
When the Mangyongbong-92 transported the North’s cheering squad for the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, the South provided food, drinking water, electricity and fuel.
The South agreed to maximize convenience for the art troupe and guarantee their safety during working-level talks with the North on Jan. 15.
The Unification Ministry official said that the US has confirmed that the Mangyongbong-92 is not subject to Washington’s unilateral sanctions against North Korea.
Nevertheless, the Seoul government plans to make sure no food items from the US are included in its supply to Mangyongbong-92 to prevent any possible sanctions violations.
Out of similar concerns, the South chose an Airbus aircraft instead of a US-made Boeing when it flew South Korean skiers on a chartered flight to the North’s Kalma Airport last week for a joint training session with North Korean skiers.
As the United Nations has imposed an annual cap of 500,000 barrels on refined petroleum product exports to North Korea, the Seoul government said it will discuss its fuel supply plan with the US and the UN, and report to the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea.
The fuel will be used for heating during the art troupe’s stay and for the ferry’s return to the North.
North Korean vessels are banned from entering South Korean ports under sanctions enacted on May 24, 2010, but Seoul has made an exception for the Mangyongbong-92 in a move “to support the successful hosting of the PyeongChang Olympics.”
Regarding concerns that the provision of food and fuel to a North Korean vessel is out of step with the international move to tighten sanctions on the North, another official at the Unification Ministry said the South will “closely consult with the US and the international community to prevent any sanctions controversy over Mangyongbong-92.”
The Samjiyon art troupe was expected to go straight to the Gangneung Arts Center after a brief welcome event upon their arrival in Mukho on Tuesday to rehearse for their performance there on Thursday.
After the concert in Gangneung, the art troupe will stay in Seoul’s Walkerhill Hotel for a performance at the National Theater of Korea Sunday.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com