North Korean ice hockey players wearing red pose with their South Korean counterparts. (AP: Ahn Young-joon, file)
North Korea will send 22 athletes to the Winter Games in the neighbouring South next month and compete in three sports and five disciplines, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.
- North Korean athletes will compete in ice skating, skiing and women’s ice hockey
- 21 media representatives and 24 officials from North Korea will also be in attendance
- The Koreas will march under the Korean Unification Flag
The IOC said in a statement that the North and South had agreed to march under a single flag at the opening ceremony and would field a united team in the women’s ice hockey, confirming earlier reports.
North Korea’s planned involvement in Pyeongchang is viewed as a sign of easing tensions over its nuclear and missile program.
The IOC said the united Korean delegation would 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.
Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik of North Korea have qualified for the Winter Olympics. (AP: Matthias Schrader, File)
‘Opening the door to a brighter future’
The three sports in which North Korea will compete are ice skating and skiing in addition to women’s ice hockey, the IOC said.
North Korea will send two figure skaters to compete in the pairs competition, two male speed skaters, two men and one woman in cross-country skiing distance events, and two men and one woman in Alpine skiing’s slalom and giant slalom races.
The most symbolic sporting aspect of the deal is a women’s hockey team — the first time that the two Koreas will have joined together in Olympic events.
They will play under the acronym COR and hear the song Arirang as a pre-game anthem.
The roster will include 12 players from the North and 23 from the South.
However, to maintain fairness for opponents, only 22 can suit up for each game, of which at least three must be North Korean.
The North will also 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.
“Today marks the milestone on a long journey,” said IOC president Thomas Bach in a prepared declaration.
“Since 2014, the IOC has addressed the special situation of having the Olympic Winter Games on the Korean peninsula.
“Such an agreement would have seemed impossible only a few weeks ago.
“The Olympic Winter Games are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula.”
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