North Korea is “likely to participate” at the 2018 winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, according to the country’s International Olympic Committee (IOC) member.
Kyodo said Chang Ung informed reporters of the North’s intentions at Beijing’s international airport on Saturday, with the Japanese news agency adding that he was likely heading to Lausanne, Switzerland for meetings with the IOC.
Chang’s comments come after North Korea on Friday accepted an offer to attend talks with South Korea about the country’s participation in the 2018 winter Olympic Games. The meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) on the border will mark the first high-level talks between the two countries since 2015.
An official from South Korea’s presidential office said that the Games in Pyeongchang would be at the top of the meeting’s agenda, but added that “discussions related to improving South-North ties after the North's participation in the Olympics becomes final” will also take place.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said last week that sending a delegation to the Games would present “a good opportunity to show unity of the people”. At this moment in time, only two North Korean athletes have qualified for Pyeongchang 2018 in the form of figure skating pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik (pictured).
However, North Korea did not confirm their participation by an October deadline meaning that their entry slot went to Japan. Kyodo said Chang’s IOC talks are likely to surround whether the pair can be granted a wild-card slot for next month’s Olympics.
Asked whether North Korea’s move to engage in talks with the South is aimed at destabilising their neighbour’s relationship with the United States, Chang said: “There may some forces who do not want to see (the two Koreas) going well... But issues about our people should be solved by ourselves.”
Meanwhile, South Korea’s Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, today (Monday) expressed her hope that North Korea’s participation at the Olympics will act as a catalyst for reconciliation between the two countries and lead to the resolution of the nuclear standoff.
“The government is looking beyond North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics to consider ways to improve inter-Korean relations and seek close collaboration with the international community to bring about North Korea's denuclearisation,” Kang said, according to Korean news agency Yonhap.
“If North Korea joins the Pyeongchang Olympics, it would strengthen the profile of the event as a peace Olympics. Seoul has been mustering every effort to make the Pyeongchang Olympics and Paralympics a festival and international sports event for peace.”