“North Korea’s Olympic Committee missed an Oct. 30 deadline to confirm it would send its qualified pairs figure skating team to the Winter Games,” NBC Sports said.
In September, North Korean figure skaters Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik grabbed their golden ticket to PyeongChang by finishing sixth at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany.
But Pyongyang has since remained mum on the matter and made no attempts to communicate so far, said NBC sports, citing the International Skating Union. It also added that by ISU rules, the spot initially occupied by the North Korean skaters will eventually be offered to Japan, a top contender who has not already qualified.
“It is up to the North Korean Olympic Committee to decide whether they will participate or not,” Ryom and Kim’s coach, Kim Hyon-son, said after the Berlin competition, according to the New York Times.
Despite North Korea’s lack of response, it still has a chance to compete in the Winter Games as the International Olympic Committee has hinted it may grant special wild card slots to North Korean athletes. IOC President Thomas Bach said and offered to provide support if necessary.
The committee said in September it could cover the costs of their athletics equipment if the North asked for support.
Seoul has repeatedly urged its neighbor to participate in the upcoming Winter Games to turn the event into a “peace festival.” President Moon Jae-in and South Korea’s top officials reiterated that the doors for North Korea will remain open until the last minute.
Many saw North Korea’s nearly 70-day hiatus in military provocations as a sign of willingness to talk, but the rogue nation shattered expectations by launching a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday. It is capable of reaching the US mainland, experts in both South Korea and the US said.
The latest missile liftoff sparked concerns here on the possibility of hosting the games amid mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“As the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and the South Korea-US military exercise happen to coincide with each other, how to resolve this situation is an important task,” Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said at a Seoul forum on Thursday, referring to a joint military exercise between South Korea and the US that usually takes place in March and April.
A senior Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters Friday that despite the North’s latest missile launch, its presence at the Olympics is expected alleviate ongoing tensions on the peninsula. Whether the military drill will be delayed or scrapped remains undecided, he said.
The IOC is considering inviting North Korea’s IOC member to its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to address its stance toward the upcoming games.
Last month, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution upholding peaceful and safe passage for all participating nations during the Olympic period. It was submitted by the South Korean government in September in a bid to halt all conflicts during the athletic events.
North Korea in November also skipped the final competition of the ISU World Cup Short Track in Seoul, which was considered as a last chance to qualify for the Olympic Games. North Korea only competed at the first two events of the four short track World Cups and the Olympic quotas were filled based on the top three winners who participated in all four rounds.
The organizing committee for PyeongChang told Yonhap News Agency on Friday it is taking a “wait-and-see approach” on North Korea’s participation. The Olympic participation is apparently a sensitive issue in Pyongyang as well, an official there said.
North Korea did not compete at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)