By Christine Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has canceled a joint cultural performance with South Korea scheduled for Feb. 4 blaming South Korean media for encouraging “insulting” public sentiment regarding the North, South Korea’s unification ministry said on Monday.
The North said it had no choice but to call off the performance, which was to be held in the North Korean territory of Mount Kumgang, as South Korean media continued to insult what Pyongyang called “sincere” measures regarding the Winter Olympics Seoul will host next month, the ministry said.
Early in January, North and South Korea launched rare talks to bring North Koreans to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after the North’s leader Kim Jong Un said he was willing to open up discussions with Seoul.
The two Koreas had been in discussions regarding final details over the joint performance. They were also talking about a different concert in South Korea by a North Korean orchestra and sending South Korean athletes to train at a North Korean ski resort.
The North added that the agreement on the Mount Kumgang joint performance had come despite conflict with its internal celebrations, the unification ministry said. North Korea has at least two major holidays coming up next month – Kim Jong Il’s birthday and a military founding anniversary.
Seoul said North Korea’s decision to cancel the joint performance was “very regrettable” and stressed Pyongyang should uphold all agreements made between North and South Korea.
President Moon Jae-in’s administration has faced criticism for its response to North Korea’s participation in the Games, especially after it decided to form a combined women’s ice hockey team with athletes from the two Koreas for the Winter Olympics.
Many South Koreans have complained the unified women’s hockey team – the only such joint team to be formed – was unfair to the South Korean players, going so far as creating over a hundred petitions against the unified team on the presidential Blue House’s website.
The controversy has sent South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s overall approval rating below 60 percent for the first time since he took office in May last year, according to a survey released last week by South Korean pollster Realmeter, dropping more than 6 percentage points since the previous week.
(Reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)