North Korea to send 22 athletes to winter Olympics

Mae Love
January 21, 2018

South Korea's Unification Ministry said on Saturday that the sudden cancellation of a North Korean delegation's planned visit to the South to prepare for the North's art troupe during the Winter Olympics was "not a permanent cancellation".

The meeting today, chaired by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, included representatives from the respective National Olympic Committees of North and South Korea, as well as Pyeongchang 2018.

The Koreas' plan to do so again at next month's Pyeongchang Olympics hasn't generated much enthusiasm among South Koreans, with many conservatives asking why their athletes can not carry their own national flag during the first Winter Olympics on their soil.

The North Korean athletes will be handed quota places, a rarely-used form of wild card, to allow them to compete in ice skating, skiing and ice hockey.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said it had accepted the proposal for the two-day visit starting Sunday.

The others are figure skating, short track speed skating, Alpine skiing and cross-country skiing.

With Hyon back in spotlight ahead of the Games, South Korean media mentioned Hyon's alleged past affairs with the North's leader Kim Jong-Un, which analysts said must have annoyed Kim.

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The North Korean delegation is set to arrive by a land-based route, which means that it will cross the heavily fortified border.

"We are turning the Pyeongchang Olympics that we've got into the Pyongyang Olympics", said Hong Joon-pyo, leader of South Korea's main conservative opposition party, referring to North Korea's capital.

The unified women's ice hockey team will be represented by the Korean Unification Flag and will compete as Korea, with the anthem being the song "Arirang".

Bach said the IOC had talked with Olympic officials from both countries separately since 2014 to see if the Pyenongchang Games could be the catalyst for peace-making. This will be the first time a joint Korean sports team has been put together in 27 years, since the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships and FIFA World Youth Championship, and the first ever in Olympic history. There will be one female and one male athlete flagbearer. They will be selected by the head coach from South Korea and must include three North Korean players for each game.

She criticized a plan to have the two countries' skiing teams train together at the North's Masikryong resort, and said she has sent a letter expressing her concerns to the International Olympic Committee.

Earlier this month, the two Koreas held their first official talks in more than two years, where the North showed interest in sending a delegation of athletes and high-ranking government officials to the Winter Games.

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