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S. Korean president confers state decoration on IOC chief

South Korean President Moon Jae-in conferred a state medal on Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), on Thursday for his contributions to the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

Bach was presented with the Cheongryong Medal, the highest decoration in the country's Order of Sport Merit, in a ceremony at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

President Moon Jae-in (right) confers the Cheongryong Medal on IOC chief Thomas Bach at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (right) confers the Cheongryong Medal on IOC chief Thomas Bach at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap)

"North Korea came to take part in the PyeongChang Olympics thanks to the IOC's active efforts and support, and that allowed the South and the North to send special envoys to each other while enabling possible dialogue between the United States and North Korea," President Moon told the IOC chief, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.

Moon sent five special envoys, headed by his top security adviser Chung Eui-yong, to the reclusive North earlier this week on an apparent mission to broker talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his country's willingness to talk with the U.S. in his unprecedented meeting with the South Korean officials on Monday.

The two Koreas have also agreed to hold what would be their third inter-Korean summit next month.

"Should these efforts go beyond the success of the Olympic Games and lead to the denuclearization of North Korea and the normalization of ties between the U.S. and North Korea, they will also mark a great achievement for global peace," Moon was quoted as saying. "I ask all countries for their support so we may seize this rare opportunity."

The PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games were the largest of their kind in history, involving more than 2,900 athletes from 92 countries. The Games were held Feb. 9-25.

The 2018 Winter Paralympics Games will open in PyeongChang, 180 kilometers east of Seoul, on Friday and will also be the largest in Paralympic history, with 570 athletes from 49 countries set to take part. The Games will end March 18. (Yonhap)