The Korea Herald


NK to further discuss PyeongChang with South Korea, IOC

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Jan. 11, 2018 - 15:13

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Officials from North and South Korea are to further discuss the North’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics at working-level talks next week and a separate meeting at the International Olympic Committee’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Jan. 20.

President Moon Jae-in (left) shakes hands with North Korean IOC member Chang Ung at the opening ceremony of the World Taekwondo Championships in Muju, North Jeolla Province, in June 2017. (Yonhap) President Moon Jae-in (left) shakes hands with North Korean IOC member Chang Ung at the opening ceremony of the World Taekwondo Championships in Muju, North Jeolla Province, in June 2017. (Yonhap)

“It is believed that the working-level talks are likely to be held before (Jan. 20). Based on the outcomes of the inter-Korean meeting, the IOC and the two Koreas are expected to finalize details (over the North’s participation),” said an official at the Unification Ministry.

The official explained that the IOC and two Koreas are expected to finalize details on the North’s participation in PyeongChang.

Seoul’s announcement follows a high-level meeting -- the first in two years -- between the South and North at the border village of Panmunjeom on Tuesday. The five-member delegations from each side included both countries’ government officials related to the Olympic Games.

North Korea agreed to send high-level delegates, athletes, a cheerleading squad, a taekwondo demonstration team, and a group of observers to the sporting event that South Korea has been hoping to turn into a “peace festival.”

After the working-level talks, a separate meeting between a delegation from South Korea’s PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee and its counterpart from North Korea will be held at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne on Jan. 20, the IOC said Wednesday.

Chang Ung, North Korea’s representative to the Olympics organization, held relevant discussions with IOC chief Thomas Bach in the Swiss city, prior to the IOC’s announcement.

North Korea had remained silent toward South Korea’s invitation to the Winter Games until its leader Kim Jong-un expressed willingness to dispatch a delegation and revive dialogue for the event, in his New Year’s address. All inter-Korean dialogue channels were severed after the South Korean government shut down a joint industrial complex in 2016 over allegations its revenues were funding Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

The IOC said the upcoming meeting in Switzerland will address a number of “essential decisions,” including the number and names of athletes and officials from North Korea’s Olympics organizing committee, since all the deadlines for registration have already passed.

At the moment, there are no qualified North Korean athletes for the Winter Games, but the IOC is expected to work out a solution in close cooperation with the South and North. The organization repeatedly said it would offer support to the North if necessary, and hinted at granting wild-card entries.

Last year, North Korea missed the Oct. 30 deadline to enter its figure skating pair for the Olympics. The duo Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik earned their Olympic spot at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany.

But the International Skating Union, the global skating governing body, said Thursday that the North has met the “technical requirements” to compete at PyeongChang if North Korea requests a late entry, alluding to Ryom and Kim. The matter would be referred to the IOC for a “final decision,” it added.
Regarding details of the North’s participation, the South-North joint entrance at the opening ceremony is expected to be raised as a key item at the upcoming discussions.

Joint entrances at the Olympics and similar sporting events have become a symbol of unification and warm ties between the divided Koreas.

If the two Koreas are to march together at the Winter Games, it would be the first joint entrance at a sporting event since the 2007 Changchun Asian Winter Games. It would also mark the 10th such entrance.

Issues surrounding North Korea’s cheerleading squad and its taekwondo performance team are also expected to be discussed at the upcoming four-way meeting in Lausanne.

It is yet undecided whether the North Korean delegation will travel to South Korea by land or via other routes. The travel routes are expected to be another key topic of discussion, as it could be linked to violation of international sanctions imposed against the North.

South Korea has banned any ship that visited a port in the North from entering South Korea for one year in its unilateral sanctions, clashing with the possibility of North Koreans coming via a maritime route.

The US has also blacklisted North Korea’s Air Koryo airline, which could pose complications to traveling by air.

By Jung Min-kyung (