South and North Korea agreed hold a joint cultural event at Mount Kumgang before the opening of next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and to conduct joint training for skiers at Masikryong Ski Resort on the North's east coast. Photo Courtesy of EPA-EFE/Jeon Heon-kyun.
SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- North Korea suddenly cancelled an inter-Korean cultural concert in the Mt. Kumkang region scheduled to be held on Sunday, South Korea's Unification Ministry said.
Pyongyang sent a notice late Monday evening stating that it has "no choice but to cancel the concert as the South Korean media goes to the length of disputing the North's internal events, while continuing to stir up controversy that insults the North's sincere measures."
The "internal event" is believed to be in reference to the North's upcoming celebration of its Army Foundation Day on Feb 8.
Reports that the North has been preparing for a massive military parade to mark the occasion, mobilizing military equipment and tens of thousands of personnel, raised criticism from a number of media outlets in the South.
The Unification Ministry said the South expressed its regrets that the scheduled event had been "unilaterally cancelled" by the North and insisted that both Koreas must "abide by the agreements made with the spirit of mutual respect and understanding."
North Korea previously canceled the visit of a cultural delegation to the South the night before the team was due to arrive, without providing an excuse.
It announced the delegation would arrive the following day just hours after Seoul told local media to refrain from speculative reporting.
Although the North has blamed the latest cancellation on media criticism in the South, experts say multiple factors could have that sealed its decision.
According to Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies in Dongguk University, the North is likely to have been discontent with Seoul consulting the United States on inter-Korean events to avoid violating global sanctions.
"Pyongyang could be issuing a warning to Seoul amid concerns surrounding sanctions," he said, according to Yonhap.
Meanwhile, Cho Sung-ryeol, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, said the cancellation could be a means of pressuring the South as it shows no signs of halting joint military drills with the U.S.
Some say the North may be trying to save face as it does not want the South to examine or operate its Kumkang facility where the cultural event would be held.
During high-level talks between the two sides earlier this month, the South and North agreed to hold a joint cultural concert in the Mt. Kumkang region as a measure to strengthen cross-border ties.
A South Korean advance team visited the area last week to examine various facilities ahead of the concert.
It was expected the South would play contemporary and traditional music while the North would also stage traditional music performances.