North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said he is considering sending a team to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Kim said both Koreas should “urgently meet” to discuss the possibility of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) participating in the games.
DPRK’s participation seemed unlikely, as the hermit state missed the official deadline to confirm its involvement. However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) still has the power to invite their athletes.
North Korea willing to participate
On Monday, Kim Jong-un spoke about the Games in his New Year’s Day speech.
“The year 2018 is a significant year for both Koreas, with the North marking the 70th anniversary of its regime establishment and the South hosting the Winter Olympics,” Kim said.
“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to showcase the national pride and we wish the Games will be a success.”
“Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility.”
Regarding Kim’s message, South Korea’s unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon suggested on a televised news conference that the two Koreas could meet on January 9 at the shared bordered village of Panmunjom.
'We hope that South and North Korea will sit down to discuss the North's participation in the games and ways to improve inter-Korean ties in a frank manner,' Cho said.
A response from North Korea is still to come.
IOC welcomes North Korean Olympic approach
On Tuesday, the IOC welcomed the possibility of North Korea participating in PyeongChnag and said the invitation remained open.
“To allow for such a participation in respect of the Olympic Charter, the IOC is keeping its invitation for a delegation of the NOC of DPRK open and will take the final decision in due time,” an IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.
In his New Year’s message, IOC’s President Thomas Bach had stated that Olympic Games “should always be beyond all political division,” and that tensions on the Korean Peninsula should be addressed “through close contact with the leaders of governments and NOCs concerned.”
Only two North Korean athletes have qualified for the Winter Olympics: figure skaters Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik.