North Korea cancels joint performance with South Korea ahead of Olympics

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.

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JINCHEON-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 26: In this handout image provided by the South Korean Unification Ministry, North Korean women's ice hockey coach Pak Chol-Ho, center, speaks during a meeting with South Korean women's hockey team at the South Korea's national training center on January 26, 2018 in Jincheon-gun, South Korea. (Photo by South Korean Unification Ministry via Getty Images)
JINCHEON-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 26: In this handout image provided by the Joint Government Support Corps, North Korean women's ice hockey players training with Sarah Murray (C), head coach of the two Korea's unified women's ice hockey team at South Korea's national training center on January 26, 2018 in Jincheon-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Joint Government Support Corps via Getty Images)
JINCHEON-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 26: In this handout image provided by the South Korean Unification Ministry, South Korean women's hockey team players (R) talk with North Korean women's ice hockey team players (L) at the South Korea's national training center on January 26, 2018 in Jincheon-gun, South Korea. (Photo by South Korean Unification Ministry via Getty Images)
JINCHEON-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 26: In this handout image provided by the Joint Government Support Corps, North Korean women's ice hockey players training at South Korea's national training center on January 26, 2018 in Jincheon-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Joint Government Support Corps via Getty Images)
JINCHEON-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 26: In this handout image provided by the Joint Government Support Corps, North Korean women's ice hockey players training with South Korean goalie at South Korea's national training center on January 26, 2018 in Jincheon-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Joint Government Support Corps via Getty Images)
JINCHEON-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 26: In this handout image provided by the South Korean Unification Ministry, North Korean women's ice hockey team players watch South Korean women's ice hockey team's training at the South Korea's national training center on January 26, 2018 in Jincheon-gun, South Korea. (Photo by South Korean Unification Ministry via Getty Images)
JINCHEON-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 26: In this handout image provided by the Joint Government Support Corps, North Korean women's ice hockey players talks with South Korean coach during their training at South Korea's national training center on January 26, 2018 in Jincheon-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Joint Government Support Corps via Getty Images)
JINCHEON-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 26: In this handout image provided by the South Korean Unification Ministry, South Korea and North Korea women's ice hockey team players meet at the South Korea's national training center on January 26, 2018 in Jincheon-gun, South Korea. (Photo by South Korean Unification Ministry via Getty Images)
JINCHEON-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 26: In this handout image provided by the South Korean Unification Ministry, North Korean women's ice hockey team players watch South Korean women's ice hockey team's training at the South Korea's national training center on January 26, 2018 in Jincheon-gun, South Korea. (Photo by South Korean Unification Ministry via Getty Images)
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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.

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1. While Kim Jong Un's birthday on January 8 is a national holiday, it is unknown exactly how old the North Korean leader is. It's widely believed he is in his early-mid thirties. In 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department listed his birth year as 1984 when they placed sanctions on North Korea.

 (KCNA via REUTERS)

2. Kim Jong Un is the world's youngest leader, according to the date listed by the Treasury. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

3. Kim Jong Un is very passionate about basketball. He is reportedly a big fan of Michael Jordan and has a friendly relationship with Jordan's former Chicago Bulls teammate Dennis Rodman. Rodman has visited the secluded nation multiple times and even sang him "Happy Birthday" before an exhibition game in Jan. 2014. 

(REUTERS/KCNA)

4. Kim Jong Un reportedly has a love for smoking, whiskey and cheese

(KCNA/via Reuters)

5. Kim Jong Un's older half-brother Kim Jong Nam was killed in Feb. 2017 by two women who smeared VX nerve agent on his face at an airport in Kuala Lumpur. The women were arrested following his death. Many believe the hit was directed by North Korea. 

(KCNA; REUTERS)

6. Kim Jong Un has two college degrees. One is in physics from Kim il Sung University and another as an Army officer obtained from the Kim Il Sung Military University.

(KCNA/REUTERS)

7. Kim Jong Un attended boarding school in Switzerland. It is widely disputed how much time he spent at the school. Most reports say he was abroad from 1998-2000. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

8. Kim Jong Un is the only general in the world that does not have any military experience. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

9. He married Ri Sol Ju in 2009. The couple has at least one daughter named Ju Ae. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

10. Kim Jong Un had his uncle Jang Song Thaek arrested and executed for treachery in 2013. 

(REUTERS/Kyodo)

11. Kim Jong Un hand selected North Korea's first all-female music group -- Moranbong Band. They made their debut in 2012. 

(ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

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(Reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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