A “high-level” delegation is due to be sent by North Korea to next month’s Winter Olympic Games in the neighboring South following a face-to-face meeting between the two countries.
The announcement was made by South Korea following the first high-level talks between the two nations for more than two years.
The North Korean delegation is expected to include athletes, officials and supporters.
“The North side proposed dispatching a high-level delegation, National Olympic Committee delegation, athletes, supporters, art performers, observers, a taekwondo demonstration team and journalists to the Games,” South Korea’s Vice-Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters afterwards.
This marks a major diplomatic breakthrough after months of wrangling over whether North Korea would boycott and present security concerns during the Games.
“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) warmly welcomes the proposals on which the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have agreed upon,” IOC President Thomas Bach said today:
“These proposals mark a great step forward in the Olympic spirit.”
Talks took place between two five-member delegations in the border village of Panmunjeom.
It was also revealed that the South Korean delegation, headed by Unification Minister Cho Myung-gyun, proposed that athletes from both Koreas march together at the Opening Ceremony as they did at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics in Sydney and Athens respectively and the Winter Games at Turin 2006.
They also requested family reunions between those divided ever-since the Korean Peninsula was split in two after World War Two to take place during the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls during the middle of the Games.
A resumption of negotiations over military issues and the North’s nuclear program was also proposed, as well as the restoring of a telephone hotline between Seoul and Pyeongyang.
In return, South Korea said they would consider the temporary lifting of sanctions to assist the North’s participation at Pyeongchang 2018.
The North Korean response to all of these issues is not yet known and talks are still ongoing.
There have been suggestions that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is attempting to improve ties between North and South in a bid to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington D.C.
United States President Donald Trump is still using increasingly hostile rhetoric towards the North following a series of missile launches in 2017.
If successful, it will still be hailed as a triumph for the IOC as they seek to show how the power of sport can build bridges in a divided world.
Pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik are the only North Korean athletes to have so far qualified for Pyeongchang 2018.
They missed a deadline last month to accept their spot.
It remains possible that other athletes from North Korea could also be given wildcards.
“Now the IOC is waiting for the official reports and the official proposals from the Tuesday meeting,” Bach added today.
“The IOC will then discuss these proposals in particular as far as the participation, the number and names of athletes from the NOC of DPRK, and the format of their participation (flag, anthem, ceremonies, etc.) are concerned.
“We will continue to have these discussions in a positive and constructive way.
“Following this consultation, the IOC EB will take the relevant decisions.”
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.