North Korea will compete at the 2018 winter Olympic Games in three sports, including a historic joint women’s ice hockey team with South Korea, following an agreement reached with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Under the Olympic Korean Peninsula Declaration, the IOC on Saturday said it will grant accreditations to the North Korean Olympic Committee for 22 athletes in three sports and five disciplines. The agreement was signed following a four-party meeting held in Lausanne between the IOC, government officials from North and South Korea and the local organising committee for next month’s Games in Pyeongchang.
Saturday’s announcement came after South and North Korea on Wednesday reached an initial agreement following the latest round of talks held between the countries at the border village of Panmunjom. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had opened the door to such a deal by stating in his New Year’s message that sending a delegation to the Games would present “a good opportunity to show unity of the people”.
Under the Olympic Korean Peninsula Declaration, the IOC has granted accreditations to North Korea for 22 athletes, 24 officials and 21 media representatives. The IOC has approved the request to have the Korean delegations marching together as one under the name ‘Korea’ at the opening ceremony. The delegation will be led into the Olympic Stadium by the Korean Unification Flag, carried by two athletes, one from each country.
The Koreas have previously fielded joint teams at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships and the 1991 Fifa World Youth Championship, but have never had a unified team at a major multi-sport event such as the Olympics or Asian Games. However, for the first time in Olympic history they will do so at Pyeongchang 2018.
The unified women’s ice hockey team will be created by adding 12 players and one official from North Korea to the existing South Korean Olympic squad of 23 players. Only 22 players will be entitled to play in each game, as is the rule for all participating teams, at least three of whom must be from North Korea.
The unified women's ice hockey team will be represented by the Korean Unification Flag and will compete as Korea, with the anthem being the song ‘Arirang’. The acronym for the team will be ‘COR’. In all other sports, the athletes will compete for their respective country in their respective uniforms.
In figure skating, the IOC has allocated an additional quota place, after the registration deadline had expired, to the qualified pair of Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik. For short track speed skating, the IOC has allocated two additional quota places to allow male athletes Jong Kwang-bom and Choe Un-song to compete.
Three additional quota places will allow two male cross-country skiers, Han Chun-gyong and Pak Il-chol, and one female athlete, Ri Yong-gum, to represent their country. Finally, two male athletes, Choe Myong-gwang and Kang Song-il, and one female athlete, Kim Ryon-hyang, will take part in both the giant slalom and slalom skiing events.
Commenting on the agreement, IOC president Thomas Bach said: “The Olympic spirit is about respect, dialogue and understanding. The Olympic winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula, and inviting the world to join in a celebration of hope.”
He added: “The Olympic Games show us what the world could look like, if we were all guided by the Olympic spirit of respect and understanding. This is the Olympic message that will go from Pyeongchang to the world.”
South Korea’s presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, yesterday (Sunday) said that North Korea’s participation will help ease tensions on the peninsula and serve as a stepping stone to establishing peace.
“The Pyeongchang winter Olympics will work to lay the groundwork for the easing of tensions and the establishment of peace on the Korean peninsula in addition to the reconciliation of the two Koreas,” Yoon Young-chan, chief press secretary to President Moon Jae-in, said in a statement reported by the Yonhap news agency.
Yoon also said that relaxing of tension would help reduce the so-called Korean discount, a term coined for the tendency to undervalue or avoid South Korean stocks due to geopolitical risks associated with the communist North.