By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) - A total of 24 South Korean skiers traveled to North Korea Wednesday to attend joint training sessions, just nine days ahead of the Winter Olympics.
They flew to the North after receiving approval from the United States, as Washington bans any incoming aircraft that has been to the reclusive state within 180 days.
Their two-day trip will see them taking part in joint practice sessions Thursday at Masikryong Ski Resort, a rare symbol of luxury in the heavily sanctioned North.
It will be seen as a highly symbolic act of cooperation at a delicate time for inter-Korean ties.
The North informed Seoul late Monday night it was unilaterally canceling a planned cultural event with the South scheduled for coming Sunday.
According to Seoul's Unification Ministry, Pyongyang took the decision because it was upset by "biased" reporting in South Korea.
This week's twists in Seoul-Pyongyang relations demonstrate the challenges even of simply maintaining a reconciliatory mood in line with the Winter Games, which will begin in South Korea on February 9.
The Koreas earlier this month took the unprecedented step of forming a unified women's ice hockey team for the Olympics, but Monday's cancelation had cast doubt on all existing arrangements.