South Korea’s Government are expecting North Korea to make a decision on whether they will compete at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang at the last minute, the country’s Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan has admitted.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and South Korea are hopeful North Korea will participate at the Games, due to run from February 9 to 25, despite the escalation of political tension between the two countries in recent months.
This has led to increased security fears, particularly as Pyeongchang is just 50 miles from the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
Numerous athletes have indicated they will not be perturbed by the concerns, however, and organizers are hopeful that the Games can be a vehicle for peace between the two countries.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, who handle all inter-Korean dialogue and attempt to boost cooperation, said yesterday that they also hope North Korea will compete.
It comes after the United Nations adopted the Olympic Truce resolution in New York City.
The resolution urges countries to give safe passage to all players, officers and officials participating in the Olympics, to have safe access and allow them to participate at the Games, as well as mobilizing youth around the world for peace.
A record 94 countries have expressed interest in sending athletes to Pyeongchang 2018 but North Korea have yet to indicate whether they will attend.
The deadline for entries is January 29.
“We are very hopeful and expect them (North Korean athletes) to be able to participate in the Games,” said Do.
“At the same time, we do know that this may be a very last-minute decision by North Korea.”
Do added that North Korean figure skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-sik qualifying for the pairs competition at Pyeongchang 2018 last month was “very positive news”.
“It means that they do have athletes who are eligible which is a positive sign for us,” Do said.
“In terms of other sports, we are aware that there are North Korean athletes training for cross country skiing as well as other ice skating categories.”
By Liam Morgan
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.