North Korea and South Korea agreed on Wednesday to march together under a unified flag at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
The decision was announced after the most recent set of talks at the border village of Panmunjom.
The two Koreas will also form a joint women’s hockey team for the Winter Olympics, which will take place between 9 and 25 February in Pyeongchang, northern South Korea.
Both measures still require approval by the International Olympic Committee, which is expected to pronounce a decision this weekend in Lausanne, Switzerland.
A unification flag was first used by the two Koreas in 1991, when Pyeongyang and Seoul competed as a single team in the 41st World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan and the 8th World Youth Football Championship in Lisbon.
The flag depicts the Korean Peninsula over a white background.
Despite competing separately, North and South Korea marched together under the Unification flag in the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin and the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.
For the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the flag was not used. Since then, the two countries have marched separately.
The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will be the first time in 11 years that the Unification flag will be used at an official sporting event.
DPRK will send a 230-strong cheering squad to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next month, South Korea's unification ministry said on Wed pic.twitter.com/ecnbaBj4R2— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) 17 January 2018
North Korea is expected to send a delegation of more than 400 members, including 230 cheerleaders, 140 artists and 30 Taekwondoins.
Angry response in the South over joint ice hockey team
The decision on a united ice hockey team has not received a positive response from athletes in the South.
“We can only take 23 players to the Olympics, and they thought these North Koreans are going to come in and take our spots”, South Korean women’s hockey head coach Sarah Murray told Reuters.
In a news conference, Chun Hae-Sung, the South Korea’s chief negotiator and unification vice minister, said the decision on a united ice hockey team is not yet finalized, since the approval of the IOC is still required.
“We’re well aware of the people’s concerns and interests about this”, Chun said.
“But I would like you to see the other side that it could make a positive contribution to peace of the Korean Peninsula and improving inter-Korean relations”.
According to Reuters, over 100 petitions against a unified hockey team have been sent to Seoul’s presidential Blue House.
Japan urges caution
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the world should be cautious over North Korea’s sudden charm.
“It is not the time to ease pressure, or to reward North Korea,” Kono said.
“The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working.”