SEOUL, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- A South Korean musical company is being banned from performing in Pyongyang as Seoul remains wary of North Korea provocations.
Seoul's unification ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said Wednesday the musical, Geumgang 1894, was denied permission to travel to North Korea, Yonhap reported.
"[After] two nuclear tests and several firings of long-range and other ballistic missiles, the provocations are intensifying," Jeong said. "In this situation, all North-South contact needed to be reconsidered, and cultural exchange was deemed not appropriate at this time."
The proposal to send South Korean musical performers to the North was from Lee Jae-myung, the mayor of Seongnam city, who is also a presidential candidate critical of the current administration.
Lee, 52, had said Monday the "city of Seongnam and the [musical company] had received a response from North Korea's national reconciliation council expressing interest in holding a working-level meeting."
Lee said the request was denied by the government, a statement Seoul confirmed Wednesday.
Civic exchange has often been exempt from South Korean government sanctions against the North, but as tensions have escalated Seoul is taking a firmer position against inter-Korea contact.
In 2015, North and South Korea held a reunion of separated families despite strained relations.
South Korean professional and amateur athletes have also been permitted to travel to Pyongyang for tournaments, but ties have not improved in 2016.
Kim Jong Un's grip on power has often depended on his ability to convince ordinary North Koreans he is leading the country in a new direction in economic reform.
But the North Korean leader has been less active in his fifth year of official rule, according to Seoul.
Kim provided field guidance about 130 times in 2016, a decrease from his earlier days, Jeong said Wednesday.