| Sport officials of the two Koreas held rare talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Thursday to discuss North Korean athletes and cheering squads` participation in the upcoming Incheon Asian Games. At the first inter-Korean sports talks in six years and five months, however, the two sides failed to narrow differences.
The South Korean delegates, led by Kwon Kyung-sang, secretary-general of the organizing committee for the Incheon Asiad, reportedly told their North Korean counterparts that Seoul would provide support only within international practices. During the 2002 Busan Asian Games, the South foot the bill for North Korean delegations` stay in the South. This time, however, Seoul called on Pyongyang to cover all the expenses for its athletes and cheering squads.
"We plan to follow international practices," a South Korean government official said. The South plans to provide the expenses for 100 or less delegates for the North, the same support offered to underdeveloped countries.
If the North requests Seoul`s full coverage of expenses, citing the unique relations between the two Koreas, the two sides will likely have hard time narrowing differences. Reportedly, Pyongyang has informed Seoul through an unofficial channel that it will send more than the initially announced 150 athletes who will participate in 14 events.
"It is up to the North to decide how many athletes and cheerleaders to send," a Seoul official said. "However, the South will determine the size of its support in accordance with international regulations."
Seoul plans to allow the North Korean delegates to enter the South by ship via a sea route on the west coast, if they choose to do so, regardless of the May 24, 2010 sanctions that ban any North Korean vessels from sailing on the South`s territorial waters.