Mukho, South Korea: Hundreds of angry South Koreans protested on Tuesday as a ship from North Korea carrying around 120 performers bound for the Olympics docked at the port of Donghae City.
Some were carrying pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with a huge X across his face while others crumpled the images and stamped them underfoot.
“We are at a state of war and we are inviting the prostitutes of our enemy,” one of the protesters said as the North Korean ship ‘Mangyongbon 92’ docked at Mukho port
A second wave of North Koreans, including a group of 229 cheerleaders, who have been the object of media fascination on past visits over the border, are expected to arrive in the South on Wednesday.
As the North Korean ship approached the dock, the protesters waving South Korean flags, marched around the port chanting into amplified speakers: “We oppose Pyongyang Olympics!”
“Why can’t we carry our own flag at the opening ceremony — because it’s Pyongyang Olympics!” a protester who came from Incheon told AFP.
North and South Korea will march as a unified team under a neutral Korean peninsula flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Friday.
Protesters believe North Korea has been allowed to hijack the Pyeongchang Games, and refer to them instead as the Pyongyang Olympics after the North Korean capital.
The Olympics have triggered an apparent rapprochement on the divided peninsula, where tensions have been high over the nuclear-armed North’s weapons ambitions.
In a rare high-level meeting last month, the two Koreas agreed that North Korean athletes, cheerleaders, artistic troupes and other delegates would attend the Games.
Twenty-two North Korean athletes have been invited to take part including figure skaters, ice hockey players, cross country and Alpine skiers.
The art troupe were seen off on their journey to the South on Monday from a train station in Pyongyang by officials including supreme leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Yo-Jong, smiling broadly and wearing a black coat and grey fur scarf.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the art troupe, led by Hyon Song-Wol, head of the Samjiyon Orchestra, would hold a “congratulatory performance” for the Games in South Korea.
The orchestra is scheduled to hold two performances at the Gangneung Art Centre on the eve of the opening ceremony of the February 9-25 Pyeongchang Olympics and at the National Theatre of Korea in Seoul on February 11.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, said the cheerleaders would arrive Wednesday crossing the land border north of Seoul in the morning, accompanied by 26 taekwondo demonstrators, 21 journalists, and four officials from North Korea’s national Olympic committee, including the sports minister.
The group will stay at a remote mountain resort about two hours drive from the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.