North Korean Athletes Will Compete at Winter Olympics

Cesar Mills
January 22, 2018

North Korea will send 22 athletes to next month's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang where they will join South Korean teammates as they march together at the opening ceremony, organisers say.

The North's participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korea's Pyeongchang has been interpreted as an apparent diplomatic breakthrough after months of high tension over the North's nuclear and missile programme.

The unified ice hockey team will be made up of the 23 members of South Korea's existing team and 12 North Korean skaters.

Earlier in the day, the ministry had requested the North to explain why it abruptly canceled the visit by the seven-member advance team late Friday, just hours after proposing it through a cross-border communication channel.

Many people sympathize with the South Korean athletes who would likely be sacrificing opportunities for the North's players, who are considered less skilled and experienced.

The North's ruler Kim Jong-Un also traded colorful personal insults and threats of war with US President Donald Trump, sparking fears of another conflict on the peninsula once devastated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

Though the exact makeup of the Samjiyon band is not released by North Korean reports, it is thought to be heavily influenced by the all-female Moranbong band.

Jennifer Jones right and Kaitlyn Lawes left as they sit and watch their opponent during the women's curling semifinal game against Britain at the 2014 Winter Olympics in S

Athletes from the North and South will also march together under one flag at the opening ceremony for the Games in Pyeongchang, which begin February 9, Bach said.

He said: "It is not the time to ease pressure, or to reward North Korea".

"Today marks a milestone on a long journey", Bach said after the meeting, which finalised details previously agreed between the two countries.

Alpine skiing: three places have been awarded - Choe Myong-Gwang and Kang Song-Il join the male competition and Kim Ryon-Hyang will compete in the women's event.

Two additional places have been allocated in short track speedskating, the International Olympic Committee said, with one going to Jong Kwang-bom and the other to Choe Un-song, both men. They will be accompanied by 24 coaches and 21 media representatives. While South Korea hopes to use the games to improve relations with its rival after a year of animosity involving North Korea's rapidly expanding nuclear weapons program, some experts view Kim's overture as an attempt to weaken USA -led worldwide sanctions against the North and buy time to further advance his nuclear weapons program.

Choi pointed to the comments of Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, who was forced to apologize after saying that the South Korean women's hockey team was out of "medal range" anyway while defending the government's decision to create the unified team. All three athletes will compete in both the Giant Slalom and Slalom events.

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