Saturday 21 April 2018

Two Koreas meet to discuss Olympic cooperation ahead of February’s Games

The Games start in South Korea on February 9.

South Korea Koreas Tensions
South Korea Koreas Tensions
South Korea Koreas Tensions

By Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press

The two Koreas have met for the third time in less than 10 days to continue discussions on Olympics cooperation.

The Winter Games begin in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang on February 9 and discussions will be held with the International Olympics Committee to discuss North Korean participation in the coming days.

A flurry of Olympics-related meetings has provided a tentative thaw in long-strained ties between the Koreas.

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South Korea Koreas Tensions

But the North’s reluctance to discuss its nuclear weapons program is raising scepticism over how long this mood of reconciliation will last.

The Koreas have been discussing fielding a joint women’s hockey team and having their athletes march under a “unification flag” depicting the Korean Peninsula, instead of their respective national flags, during the opening ceremony for the Games.

The International Olympic Committee is to meet with sports and government officials from the two Koreas and officials from the Pyeongchang organising committee at its headquarters in Switzerland on Saturday to discuss these plans.

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The talks took place in the Demilitarised Zone in Paju, South Korea (South Korea Unification Ministry/AP)

Wednesday’s talks, in the uninhabited village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarized Zone that divides their countries, were expected to go over these issues ahead of the IOC meeting.

Other likely topics include what route the North Korean delegation would take to South Korea and how much financial support South Korea would provide them.

A pair of North Korean figure skaters qualified for the Olympics, but North Korea missed a deadline to confirm their participation.

The IOC said recently it has “kept the door open” for North Korea to take part in the games.

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There have been talks of Korea sending a unified hockey team to the Games (Lee Jin-man/AP)

South Korea also wants the IOC to allow the hockey team’s Olympic roster to be expanded so that North Korean players can be added without removing any of the South Korean players.

A spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry said the government is well aware of public concern that a joint team could displace South Koreans who have already made the team.

“It is the government’s basic stance that we will make sure there is no negative impact on our athletes,” Baik Tae-hyun said at a briefing in Seoul.

Sarah Murray, the South Korea women hockey team’s head coach, said: “Adding somebody so close to the Olympics is a little bit dangerous just for team chemistry because the girls have been together for so long.”

North Korea’s sudden announcement on January 1 that it would consider joining the Games is raising hopes for better ties between the Koreas after a year of heightened animosities and fears of a military confrontation as the US harshly criticised North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea has made it clear that it does not want to discuss its nuclear program during the ongoing meetings with South Korea.

Press Association

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