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Koreas set for talks on Asian Games

All Headlines 09:01 July 17, 2014

SEOUL, July 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korean sports officials left for the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on Thursday to hold rare talks with North Korea, as Pyongyang plans to join the upcoming Incheon Asian Games.

"This working-level contact is aimed at discussing a range of issues on the (planned) participation by North Korea's athletes and cheering squad in the Incheon Asian Games," Kwon Kyung-sang, head of Seoul's three-member delegation to the talks, told reporters before heading to the truce village of Panmunjom.

Kwon, secretary general of the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee, vowed to negotiate with North Korea in a "calm and sincere" manner for the sake of South Korea's successful hosting of the event slated for Sept. 19-Oct. 4.

His North Korean counterpart is Son Kwang-ho, vice chairman of the communist nation's Olympic Committee, a vice minister-level official.

It is the first time for the two Koreas to hold talks on sports since 2008, when they met for consultations on a joint cheerleading team for the Beijing Olympics.

The communist nation is expected to send more than 150 athletes and coaches to the Asian Games, along with a cheerleading squad.

The North's participation will apparently help draw more international attention to the quadrennial games.

Among key remaining issues are transportation and the cost of the North Korean delegation's stay here.

When the North participated in the 2002 Busan Asian Games, athletes used a chartered plane, while the cheering squad took a ferry, called Mangyeongbong.

Under the South's tough sanctions on the North imposed after the 2010 sinking of warship Cheonan that was blamed on the North, the ferry is prohibited from sailing here.

The South traditionally chose to foot the bill for North Korean delegation to the athletic event on its soil. This time, however, Seoul wants Pyongyang to pay for the cost on its own, although it can be flexible if necessary, according to informed sources.

"We will first have to listen to what the North Korean side says in the working-level contact today," a unification ministry official said.

Some observers say the North may suggest the formation of a joint cheering team, joint entry at the opening ceremony and the creation of united teams for selected events.

It remains unclear whether the two sides will reach an agreement in the inaugural round of discussions Thursday.

lcd@yna.co.kr

leechidong@gmail.com
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