In this Feb 10, 2018 photo, cheerleaders from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) perform before, top left to right, President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea (ROK), president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK Kim Yong-nam, DPRK leader’s sister Kim Yo-jong, and president of the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee Lee Hee-Beom watch the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between the unified Korea team and Switzerland at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung. (ED JONES / AFP)
SEOUL – The Republic of Korea (ROK) on Wednesday approved the use of a record 2.86 billion won (US$2.64 million) to bankroll the cost of hosting hundreds of visiting citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The funds will pay for the costs including accommodations and food for DPRK cheering squad, orchestra, taekwondo performers, journalists and other supporting personnel
The Ministry of Unification said the funds will pay for the costs including accommodations and food for DPRK cheering squad, orchestra, taekwondo performers, journalists and other supporting personnel who had visited or are still in the ROK. Combined, they make a group of 424 North Koreans.
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ROK President Moon Jae-in invited DPRK athletes, supporters and officials to the Olympics in an attempt to lower months of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington over DPRK nuclear and missile programs.
A final number for the total payment of all the DPRK citizens who visited during the Olympics will be disclosed at a later time, ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said in a briefing.
Costs for hosting the high-level official delegation which included Kim Yo-jong, the sister of DPRK leader Kim Jong-un, were paid for separately from the government budget, Baik added without disclosing details.
The International Olympics Committee will foot the bill for 22 DPRK athletes also in the ROK.
Travel between the two Koreas has been impossible without the approval of both governments since the 1950-53 war that divided the peninsula and ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.
Wednesday's number far exceeds the 1.35 billion won that was used to pay for the 650 DPRK citizens who visited the ROK in 2002 for the Asian Games in the port city of Busan.
President Moon Jae-in, second from right, of the Republic of Korea (ROK), applauds with Kim Yo-jong, third from right, sister of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s top leader Kim Jong-un, during a performance of the DPRK’s Samjiyon Orchestra at National Theater in Seoul, Feb 11, 2018. (BEE JAE-MAN/YONHAP VIA AP)
The smaller amount in 2002 was partly due to the DPRK cheering squad staying and eating on the ferry they had arrived in, a ministry official told Reuters who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Inflation also attributed to the higher number.
From the biggest portion of the 2.86 billion won, about 1.2 billion won will be used for accommodations and food, the official added. Roughly 1.0 billion won will be used to pay for entrance fees for Olympics venues and 100 million won has been set aside for transportation costs.
Most of the DPRK citizens stayed at luxury hotels in Seoul and near the Olympics venue nearly throughout their visit, including the five-star Grand Walkerhill in western Seoul that has previously hosted celebrities including Paris Hilton and Michael Jackson.
The budget for the DPRK citizens’ stay will be withdrawn from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund, part of the Unification Ministry's spending budget. The fund was created in 1991 for DPRK-related expenditures and its total 2018 budget is 962.4 billion won.