NKorea teams arrive in South for pre-Olympics inspection

Sheri Evans
January 22, 2018

A North Korean delegation headed to Gangnueng, an eastern South Korean city, Sunday to check the venues for its proposed art performances at next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The North will send 24 officials and 21 media representatives.

Until Saturday, a figure skating pair were the only North Koreans to have secured a spot at the Games through the conventional qualifying competition, although they lost their place after failing to register.

Officials from both Koreas used a cross-border hotline to reschedule the visit.

North Korea's unexpected participation, negotiated in talks at the heavily fortified border between the two nations since the start of the year, has been hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that could herald peace on the Korean peninsula.

Outside critics have dismissed Kim's overture as a tactic to use improved ties with Seoul to weaken US-led worldwide sanctions over North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile programs.

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.

North Korea has never participated in an Olympic Games in South Korea.

South Korea's Ministry of Unification on Saturday requested an explanation on Saturday, and informed the North that Seoul intends to follow the plans agreed to in the high-level talks.

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In his remarks, Bach said the International Olympic Committee had been working for several years to address the "special situation" of having the 2018 Winter Olympics on the Korean Peninsula.

"We have always done so with our belief that the Olympic Games are beyond all political tensions", he said. He said he hoped the Olympics would "open the world for a brighter future on the Korean peninsula".

Following the talks, the International Olympic Committee outlined details of how the 22 North Korean athletes will be accommodated in the Games, only weeks before they start.

The 22 athletes will not be expected to win a first Winter Games medal for North Korea since 1992, when it got a bronze in women's short track speed skating.

The united Korean delegation will be led into the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony under the Korean Unification Flag which would be carried by two athletes, one from each country.

The delegation led by Hyon will inspect venues in Gangneung on Sunday and those in the capital Seoul on Monday before returning to the North the same day.

Three North Koreans will compete in the cross-country skiing and another three in the Alpine skiing slalom and giant slalom events.

The Samjiyon art troupe, which comprises orchestra members, singers and dancers, is part of North Korea's Olympic delegation that also includes athletes, officials, journalists and a taekwondo demonstration team.

In an interview with Russia's state-run TASS news agency published Saturday, Morgulov said the main focus of any meetings would be on bilateral issues.

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