North and South Korean Teams to March as One at Olympics

The two countries also agreed on Wednesday that their skiing teams would train together in the Masikryong ski resort in North Korea. The resort, a showpiece project of the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, was opened in 2013.

South Korean officials said on Wednesday that the North’s delegation would include at least 550 people, including about 150 to the Paralympic Games in March. But the joint news statement said that the final number would be determined in Switzerland on Saturday, when the International Olympic Committee is to bring together North and South Korean officials. The plan is for the North’s athletes to enter the South over a land border on Feb. 1.

Video

Can the Olympics Bring the Koreas Together?

North Korea has agreed to send athletes to the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, but the Olympics have long been a window into geopolitics between the two sides.

By ROBIN STEIN and NATALIE RENEAU on Publish Date January 9, 2018. . Watch in Times Video »

So far, the only North Korean athletes to qualify for the Pyeongchang Games are a pairs figureskating team. North Korea missed an Oct. 31 deadline to accept invitations from South Korea and the International Olympic Committee to join the Games. But the international body has said it remains willing to consider wild-card entries for North Korean athletes.

North and South Korean Teams to March as One at Olympics
North and South Korean Teams to March as One at Olympics

A unified team of any kind at the Olympics would be a milestone for the Koreas, which have been bitter rivals in international sports as well as diplomacy and armed conflict, but which also have a history of trying to use sports as an avenue for reconciliation.

Mr. Moon proposed in June that the two Koreas form a unified team for the Pyeongchang Games, but the suggestion was not taken seriously until the Mr. Kim used his New Year’s Day speech to propose dialogue with the South and to discuss his country’s participation in the Olympics.

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That proposal led to a series of talks in Panmunjom between the two Korean governments. In an earlier round of negotiations, the North agreed to send a 140-member orchestra to play in the South during the Olympics.

The prospect of fostering inter-Korean reconciliation through sports and other channels has strong appeal in South Korea, so much so that successive governments have tried to negotiate sending a unified team to the Olympics.

Such efforts have sometimes led to breakthroughs. In 2000, the year of the first inter-Korean summit meeting, the countries’ delegations marched together at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. They have marched together nine times, including in Athens in 2004, carrying a blue-and-white flag representing a united Korea, and at the 2006 Winter Olympics. The two Koreas last marched together in the Asian Winter Games of 2007.

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