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Hundreds of North Korean Supporters Arrive in South for Asian Games - 2002-09-28

Several hundred North Korean supporters have arrived in the South Korean city of Pusan to attend the Asian Games. The visit marks the largest contingent of North Koreans to enter the South since the Korean War of the early 1950s. The visit is a sign of improving inter-Korean relations.

It's being hailed as a landmark visit. An estimated 370 cheering North Korean musicians, sailors and reporters are joining more than 300 North Korean athletes and team staff for the two-week long Asian Games.

The games officially kick off on Sunday, and organizers say the North and South Korean teams will march together in the opening ceremony under a special Korean unification flag.

The North Korean supporters arrived at a port near Pusan on Saturday, their ship flying the unification flag as it neared land. Women in traditional, brightly colored robes waved their own flags from the deck, while a 150-member brass band played a North Korean tune called "Happy to See You." South Korean fishermen and civilians on some 50 boats rode out to sea to welcome the visitors from the North. On shore, South Koreans cheered as they hoisted unification flags and banners and chanted "Unified Korea."

Until now, North Korea, which has been separated from the South since the Korean War, has refused to participate in all the major sporting events hosted by South Korea including the 1998 Olympic Games and this year's World Cup soccer finals.

This contingent of visitors is the latest in an unprecedented flurry of openings to the outside world by the normally reclusive North.