North Korea to send 22 athletes to Winter Games

Cheryl Sanders
January 23, 2018

The activists also burned the so-called unification flag - a light blue silhouette of the Korean Peninsula on a white background - which Seoul and Pyongyang have agreed to march behind together at the PyeongChang 2018 opening ceremony.

Leading the seven-member group is girl band singer and head of Samijyon Orchestra Hyon Song-wol who is also rumored to be the former girlfriend of the North's leader Kim Jong Un.

They visited Seoul and Gangeung, which is due to be the home of ice sports at the Games.

It was unclear whether the cancellation cast any doubt over the preparations for the North's participation in next months Winter Olympics in South Korea's Pyeongchang, an apparent diplomatic breakthrough after months of high tension over the North's nuclear and missile program.

Those include figure skating, short-track speed skating, cross-country skiing and Alpine skiing, as well as hockey, with the International Olympic Committee having approved the entry of the joint team despite concerns voiced by some hockey federations over fairness. Accreditations will also be given to 24 officials and 21 media representatives from the DPRK.

The delegation will be led by the art troupe's leader Hyon Song Wol.

A member of a South Korean conservative civic group burns a North Korean national flag during a protest opposing North Korea's participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, in Seoul, South Korea, January 22, 2018. With respect to fair play and the other competing teams, only 22 players will be entitled to play in each game, as is the rule for all participating teams.

"I think South Koreans don't want North Koreans free-riding", says Katharine Moon, the Asian studies chair at Wellesley College.

All others would have not qualified otherwise and have benefited from additional quota places.

A special unity uniform will be created for the event.

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

It is the first North Korean delegation to visit the South during the Moon administration, which took power last May.

Sports Minister Do said he hoped the North Koreans would travel to the South "as soon as possible" to prepare, Yonhap News Agency reported.

"Such dialogue came dramatically, while the possibility of war again loomed.

No one should be optimistic about how long this atmosphere for dialogue will last".

More inter-Korean exchanges are expected.

Earlier this month, the Koreas held their first official talks in more than two years, with the North showing interest in sending a delegation of athletes, a 230-person cheering squad and high-ranking government officials to the games.

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