SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea Thursday rejected North Korea's proposal for direct talks on the North's demands to be co-host of the 1988 Olympic Games.
The rejection was announced in a letter from Kim Chong-Ha, president of the Korea Olympic Committee, to his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yu-Sun, in the truce village of Panmunjom, 35 miles north of Seoul.
Kim's letter said the co-hosting issue should continue to be discussed under the stewardship of the International Olympic Committee. The three sides have held four meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, without reaching an agreement.
"Accordingly, I think that it won't be any help for the progress of the Lausanne talks that have already proceeded so far, and it will only cause confusion and make matters more complex to have separate talks between the South and North Korean Olympic committees," the letter said.
The IOC and South Korea have rejected North Korea's co-hosting demand, and the IOC has offered North Korea the right to stage some events if it takes part in the Seoul Games and drops the co-host demand.
North Korea sent a letter to South Korea on Sept. 15 proposing direct talks without the participation of the IOC. Olympic officials are concerned that North Korea may try to organize a boycott of the Games if its demands are not met.
The letter described the North's co-hosting demand "as a fundamental and basic issue" that could be solved "smoothly" only when discussed with the IOC.
"Consequently, if we come to terms for these fundamental and basic problems at the Lausanne talks, the national Olympic committees of the South and the North will discuss other problems such as free passage across the border," the letter said.
Kim also pointed out that the IOC sent out invitations to its 167 member countries last Thursday, exactly one year before the start of the Seoul Games.
Kim called on North Korea to change its mind before all IOC member countries are required to confirm their participation in the Seoul Games by next Jan.17.
The IOC and South Korea offered to let North Korea stage table tennis, archery, a road cycling race and some soccer preliminaries. North Korea demanded more.
In what was decribed as "a final offer," IOC President Juan Samaranch proposed last June that women's volleyball be added to the four events for North Korea to stage in its capital, Pyongyang.
South Korea quickly accepted the compromise, but North Korea came up with a new proposal that the two countries start separate talks without the IOC.
Kim and other top South Korean sports officials visited Lausanne last week for talks on the latest North Korean proposal.