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N Korea official praises Kim's projects in rare S Korea visit

A senior North Korean sporting official heaped praise on Wednesday (Aug 20) on leisure projects promoted by leader Kim Jong-un as a delegation from the North paid a rare visit to South Korea.

INCHEON: A senior North Korean sporting official heaped praise on Wednesday (Aug 20) on leisure projects promoted by leader Kim Jong-un as a delegation from the North paid a rare visit to South Korea.

Yang Song-ho, dean of the Korea University of Physical Education in Pyongyang, said "thousands of multifunctional sports facilities and sports parks" have been built across North Korea over the last two or three years "to realise the goal of sports development set by the state".

He was speaking at a sports conference in the South's western port city of Incheon, which will host the Asian Games from Sep 19 to Oct 4. Yang was among an eight-member North Korean delegation which arrived in Incheon late Tuesday to attend pre-Asiad functions including the draw Thursday for group sports. Yang described the new Masik Pass ski resort and other major projects launched by Kim as "facilities which embody the civilisation of the new era".

Since the young ruler took power after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December 2011, he has shown a fondness for expensive projects including a massive water park, an amusement park, a luxury horseback riding club and the ski resort.

Cross-border tensions have been high following an extended series of rocket and missile launches by the nuclear-armed communist country. The North has submitted a list of 150 athletes through the Olympic Council of Asia to compete in 14 sports at Incheon, although there has been no official confirmation of its attendance.

North-South talks held last month to coordinate logistics about the games fell apart after Pyongyang walked out, accusing Seoul of arrogance and insincerity. Seoul reportedly proposed breaking from its past custom of financially supporting visiting sporting delegations from the North, to move into line with international sporting standards.

The North bristled at the change and threatened to boycott the Asian Games, with no further talks held or proposed by either side.

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