IOC approves deal for DPRK’s participation in 2018 Winter Olympics

World Today

It’s official–athletes from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will participate in next month’s Winter Olympics.

Representatives from Pyongyang and Seoul met the International Olympics Committee in Switzerland Saturday. CGTN’s Natalie Carney has details from Lausanne.

Participation by the DPRK in the Winter Olympics is not always a sure bet. The last time… it was the Games of 2010 in Vancouver.

But the DPRK’s presence in Pyeongchang, just 80 kilometers south of the demilitarized zone that divides north and south, will prove historic, as it will be the first time the two Koreas compete as one.

“The IOC today has taken exceptional decisions and has allocated additional quotas for 22 athletes from the NOC of the DPRK who will compete in three sports and five disciplines,” announced Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee.

Among them–figure skating, short track speed skating, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing.

The committee also agreed to the formation of a joint women’s ice hockey team and to allow the athletes from both countries to kick off the games as one.

“Following the wish of the two NOCs, the IOC has approved their request to have their delegation marching together as one under the name ‘Korea’ at the opening ceremony of the Olympic winter games, PyeongChang 2018,” said Bach. “This team will enter the stadium under the Korean reunification flag.”

Throughout the talks, South Korean officials supported the move to include their northern neighbor.

“The DPRK’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will present the most dramatic scene in the history of the Olympics,” said ROK Minister of Sport, Do Jong Hwan. “It can be a chance to show the value and power of sports when players from the two Koreas march together in the opening ceremony, and play games together as a unified team.”

But there have been questions over the fairness these decisions bring. Not only have the 22 DPRK athletes missed the October 30th deadline to register, but the head of the South Korean women’s hockey team says that such a late addition of team members could prove a disadvantage to the team’s chemistry.

Many in South Korea are also opposed to the idea, accusing their president, Moon Jae-in, of sacrificing Olympic ideals for diplomatic expediency.

The decision of the DPRK to take part in the Olympics follows months of heightened tension between the two countries over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program.

Despite questions of ethics, many governments worldwide are applauding the move, seeing it as a step towards thawing those tensions and repairing diplomatic relations.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Yang Yang, one of China’s representatives to the IOC. “The first step is to meet each other, then to listen to each other, and finally to accept each other.” 

Leaving the press conference, DPRK IOC member Ung Chang reaffirmed his confidence in the decisions.

“I am very much satisfied,” said Chang. “We got results from the meeting, the four party meeting. That is good.”

But it has yet to be seen if this positive sportsmanship will translate in the diplomatic arena, and whether the Korean reunification flag will grow to fly high or prove a flop.

CGTN’s Susan Roberts talks with Ohio University’s Sports Administration Chair, Norman O’Reilly about the agreement for the DPRK and ROK to jointly participate in next month’s Winter Olympics.