South Korean Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan on Friday asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for "continuous interest and support" in North Korea's participation in next year's Winter Games south of the border.
Do made the remarks in his speech during the closing ceremony of the World Taekwondo Championships in Muju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul. IOC President Thomas Bach was also in attendance at T1 Arena. Do had earlier proposed a joint Korean women's hockey team at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
The North Korea-led International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) sent a demonstration team to Muju to perform in the opening and closing ceremonies. And Do said the historic occasion -- these were an ITF demonstration team's first performances at a World Taekwondo event in South Korea -- would pave the way for further exchanges between the two Koreas and eventually lead to the North's participation in PyeongChang 2018.
"I sincerely hope that athletes and a cheering squad from North Korea will participate in PyeongChang Winter Olympics Games next February to realize the noble values of the Olympic Games, the harmony of mankind and the promotion of the world peace through sport," Do said. "To this end, I kindly ask the IOC president and members for continuous interest and support in this matter."
During the competition's opening ceremony last Saturday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in extended an invitation to North Korea for the PyeongChang Olympics. Bach, who arrived in South Korea Thursday, has repeatedly said the IOC noted "with great appreciation" Moon's gesture toward dialogue and reconciliation, adding the idea was "in the spirit of Olympism." Bach has also said the IOC already invited North Korea to take part in PyeongChang
2018 back in February, and that it was supporting North Korean athletes to qualify for the first Winter Games in South Korea.
Chang Ung, the lone North Korean IOC member who traveled with the ITF delegation, has voiced his skepticism that a joint Korean team would happen, given the time crunch the two sides face. (Yonhap)