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Monday, August 14, 2000
Reports: North Korean leader declines to attend Sydney Olympics

 SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has declined an invitation by IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch to attend the Sydney Olympics, South Korean reports said Monday.

 In letters sent last week, Samaranch invited the North Korean leader and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to attend either the opening or closing ceremony of the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Sydney Olympics.

 The South Korean president has yet to respond to Samaranch's invitation.

 On Saturday, Kim Jong Il told a group of 46 South Korean media executives who were visiting his communist country that he did not want to go to Sydney.

 "Rather than becoming an actor at the Sydney Olympics, I'd rather go to Seoul first," South Korean media quoted Kim as saying.

 Kim's remarks were made public after the South Koreans returned home from their eight-day visit on Saturday.

 Under an agreement reached during a historic summit with his South Korean counterpart in June, Kim Jong Il promised to visit Seoul, the South Korean capital.

 Kim Jong Il told the South Koreans that he will send one of his close confidants -- Kim Yong Sun -- to Seoul in September to fix the date of his Seoul visit. The confidant heads the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, a powerful semiofficial organization handling economic and other exchanges with South Korea and other countries.

 Last month, the IOC accepted a proposal by the North Koreans to drop the two national flags from the opening ceremony and allow the athletes from both countries to march together under the Olympic flag.

 Jie-won Park, Seoul's culture and tourism minister, recently suggested the athletes from the two Koreas use a jointly designed "unification flag."

 During a visit to North Korea with the South Korean media executives, Park said he met North Korean IOC member Chang Ung and made the suggestion.

 Chang promised to review it, he said.

 The "unification flag," which carries a blue image of the Korean peninsula against a white background, was used when the Koreas formed joint teams for world table tennis and youth soccer teams in 1991.

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