Winter olympics in south korea: north korea will participate.

The IOC celebrates itself and the Olympic spirit. North Korea is sending 22 athletes to Pyeongchang. In women’s ice hockey, the two Koreas are even forming a team.

A long way for a short trip to the neighbor: ice skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik Photo: imago/Newspix24

North Korea will be represented by 22 athletes at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Twenty days before the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang on Feb. 9, IOC chief Thomas Bach announced North Korea’s final participation on Saturday after a meeting with representatives from both countries in Lausanne. "Today is a great day because the Olympic spirit has brought both sides together," the German said. "It has been a difficult journey."

At the opening ceremony, delegations from both countries will enter the stadium under the name of Korea and carrying the "unification flag." "This will be an emotional moment not only for Korea but for the whole world," Bach said. In the past, North and South Korean athletes had already appeared together and with the neutral flag at Olympic opening ceremonies such as those in Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004 and Turin in 2006. The flag shows the Korean peninsula in blue against a white background.

The athletes from the communist north of the Korean peninsula will compete in five disciplines. Among them, for the first time, is a women’s ice hockey team formed jointly with South Korea. It is the first time the two Korean nations have fielded a joint team in a sport at the Olympics. "This team is a great symbol of the unifying power of Olympic sports," the IOC president said.

North Koreans will also compete in figure skating, short track, alpine skiing and cross-country skiing. They will be accompanied by 24 coaches and officials. Pair skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik had been the only North Koreans to qualify for Pyeongchang athletically, but failed to register in time.

North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un had offered in his New Year’s address in early January to send a delegation to Western-leaning South Korea. The latest signals of rapprochement between the two Koreas recently significantly reduced fears of an escalation of the dispute over North Korea’s nuclear program shortly before the start of the Winter Games. The situation had come to a head last year after numerous missile tests by North Korea.

Pair skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik had been the only North Koreans to qualify athletically for Pyeongchang, but failed to register in time

North Korea was last represented by athletes at the Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010. In total, winter athletes from this isolated country have won only two Olympic medals in eight participations. The last one so far was won by short tracker Hwang Ok-sil in 1992, when she took bronze in Albertville.

Immediately before the meeting in Lausanne there had been irritations between the two countries. After reaching an agreement with South Korea on the performance of a North Korean music group during the Winter Olympics, North Korea had announced the visit of an advance delegation to Pyeongchang for Saturday, but then surprisingly canceled it. Now, however, the delegation of seven members is scheduled to arrive Sunday by land across the heavily guarded inter-Korean border. This was announced by the Unification Ministry in Seoul. The North’s proposal for the two-day visit had been accepted.

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