A total of 32 young athletes and officials from North Korea will arrive on Sunday to take part in the tournament set to be played in the town of Yeoncheon, a spokesperson for South Korea's ministry of unification told reporters on Friday.

The visiting delegation will arrive via Beijing, said the spokesperson, even though Yeoncheon, located 62 km north of Seoul, is practically adjacent to the heavily militarised, restricted-access North Korean border.

Seoul hopes the sports exchange will improve relations between the two Koreas that have in recent months made scant progress in agreeing on terms for talks.

"This event can help build ties between South and North that will be to their mutual benefit," the South Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation said in a statement.

The council, which is also the co-organiser of the under-15 event, said that the sport is the most effective means of solving conflicts between countries.

The Yeoncheon tournament will be the first sporting event in six years in which children from the two Koreas would be participating.

North Korea competed in most categories at the recent Asian Games held between September and October in Incheon, South Korea.

The Games allowed both sides to lower tensions but did not produce concrete agreements that could lead to a new era of detente.

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