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  • Koreas Agree on Joint Olympic Proposals


    (ATR) Two Koreas propose marching as one at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, as well as combining for a joint women’s hockey team.

    Talks in the DMZ between North and South Korea today (South Korean Unification Ministry)
    However, all decisions taken related directly to the Olympics must be confirmed by the IOC.

    The decisions were taken in the third round of talks between North and South Korean officials in Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone. The talks focused on practical matters related to the North’s delegation to PyeongChang 2018.

    In the coming days North Korean and South Korean government and sport officials will convene in Lausanne to iron out the final Olympic details. An IOC spokesperson said in a statement to Around the Rings it has “taken note of a number of interesting proposals from different sources”.

    “We are sure that the two Korean delegations will present their ideas and proposals at the meeting on Saturday in Lausanne,” the statement said. “This will then enable the IOC to carefully evaluate the consequences and the potential impact on the Olympic Games and the Olympic competitions.

    “There are many considerations with regard to the impact of these proposals on the other participating NOCs and athletes. After having taken all this into consideration, the IOC will take its final decisions on Saturday in Lausanne.”

    A Korean unification flag shown during a 2011 evaluation commission visit to Gangneung (ATR)
    South Korea and North Korea marched at the 2000, 2004 and 2006 Olympics under a joint unification flag. The flag featured prominently in the stands during the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, after officials barred spectators from bringing the North Korean flag into stadiums. 

    Any joint hockey team will need approval from the International Ice Hockey Federation. Concerns for such a proposal include ramifications of increasing the size of the roster to accommodate North Korean skaters. This could be seen by other countries as an unfair advantage for the team. Logistics of an increased roster will also need to be addressed.

    Sarah Murray, the head coach of the South Korean women’s team, said she had only heard of the proposal through media reports. Murray said to Yonhap that there are North Korean skaters that could bolster her squad, but any additions could mess with squad chemistry and coaching decisions.

    So far the IIHF has not returned requests for comment.

    The full joint decision was published today by the South Korean Unification Ministry. The statement outlined 11 proposals approved by both sides.

    North Korea will send its first ever delegation to the Winter Paralympic Games. The joint statement said the delegation will total around 150 members.

    North Korea participated in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics, but never a Winter Games (Wikimedia Commons)
    An International Paralympic Committee spokesman told ATR the committee is “very keen and enthusiastic” for North Korea to participate, but qualification is still up in the air.

    “We have been working with the North Korean National Paralympic Committee, the South Korean NPC and PyeongChang 2018 for the last months to ensure North Korean participation in the Paralympic Winter Games,” Craig Spence, IPC communications director told ATR. “We are working with them at the moment to see if we can get some of their athletes qualified for the games in Nordic skiing.

    “At the moment there is still qualification events so the aim is to try and get them to qualify and if they don’t qualify there are other options we can look at to ensure their participation. We believe North Korean participation in the Paralympic Winter Games will send out a very good message of peace through sport.”

    To get to the 2018 Winter Olympics, North Korea will travel by land through the Gyeongui train line. The line ends just before the DMZ across the border from Kaesong Industrial Complex. Travel to the Olympic Games became a tricky subject during negotiations because of current multi-layered United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea. South Korean officials had to navigate aiding the North Korean delegation’s arrival without providing direct aid to North Korea.

    As talks continued in the DMZ, a number of senior diplomatic figures from 20 countries met in Vancouver to discuss how to contain North Korea’s nuclear program and promote inter-Korean dialogue. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un only announced the country would attend the 2018 Winter Olympics after stating the country had achieved a functional intercontinental nuclear missile.

    “We’re at a very tenuous stage in terms of how far North Korea has taken their program and what we can do to convince them to take an alternative path,” Rex Tillerson, United States Secretary of State, said in Vancouver.

    North Korean journalists could work out of the MPC (PyeongChang 2018)
    Talks between North and South Korea have been ongoing with support by the United States and President Donald Trump. At one point Trump appeared to take credit for the talks, which drew the ire of Pyongyang officials. The United States will send Vice President Mike Pence to lead a delegation to the PyeongChang Games, which could include diplomatic talks.

    One pre-Olympic event will take place in North Korea. A joint training session for North and South Korean skiers will be held at the Mt. Kumgang ski resort. The two sides agreed North Korean journalists will be credentialed for the Olympic Games. The North Korean delegation will follow "guidance and order" from South Korean officials, according to the joint statement. South Korea will provide safety and security of the North Korean delegation in return.

    North Korea will also send a 230 member cheering squad to the Games, and a 30 person taekwondo demonstration team. A North Korea taekwondo demonstration team performed at the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships this summer in Muju, South Korea. These cultural delegations will join the already announced 140 person orchestra that will do performances in Seoul and the Olympic host city of Gangneung.

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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