With the PyeongChang Winter Olympics just around the corner, both Koreas are gearing up to finalize the agreements reached between the two. The South Korean delegates on Thursday departed for Lausanne, Switzerland, where they are to attend talks hosted by the International Olympic Committee with a goal to finalize Wednesday’s inter-Korean agreements.
|South Korean President Moon Jae-in (left) presents mascots of 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games to Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, as the two met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 19, 2017. (Yonhap)|
On Wednesday, the two rival Koreas agreed to form their first unified Olympic team and have their athletes march together for the first time in 11 years at the opening ceremony of next month’s Winter Games. The sides will also arrange for joint training at the North’s ski resort and the North Korean delegation will use a land route to cross the border, according to a joint press statement released after Wednesday’s vice-ministerial-level talks.
IOC President Thomas Bach will chair the four-party meeting that starts Saturday at the IOC’s Lausanne headquarters to discuss the North’s presence at the Feb. 9-25 Olympics.
Inter-Korean exchanges are expected to gain more traction after the agreement takes more solid shape on Saturday.
The size of the financial support for the North Korean athletes during their stay in South Korea is expected to be discussed among relevant government officials next week.
The Unification Ministry said it plans to hold a meeting of the South and North Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council next week to decide on the amount financial support for the athletes and the non-athlete delegation. The council is run by the ministry and oversees cross-border financial exchanges between the two Koreas.
The ministry official said that the talks with the IOC on the size of the North Korean athletes would have to come first before further decisions can be made.
The IOC had previously said it is willing to cover the cost of North Korean athletes if they come to the Winter Games.
The South Korean government will also dispatch a group to the North’s Masikryong Ski Resort on the North’s east coast next week to inspect the venue where a joint training is to take place.
The Ministry of Unification said Thursday the plan reflects Seoul’s wish to make the PyeongChang Winter Olympics a “peace event.”
North Korean athletes will compete in four sports at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, according to the event’s top organizer.
Lee Hee-beom, head of the organizing committee for PyeongChang 2018, said North Korean athletes will compete in pair figure skating, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and women’s ice hockey.
Lee said the agreement was reached during Wednesday’s talks, but did not disclose the number of North Korean athletes that had been agreed to by the two sides, stressing the IOC would have the final say on the matter.
The two Koreas also agreed for South Korea’s women’s national hockey team to accept five or six members from its North Korean counterpart, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said Thursday at a university lecture. The decision was made based on the principle that it would not negatively affect the South Korean team’s overall performance at the upcoming games, explained Cho.
On the upcoming talks in Lausanne, closely following a preparatory meeting Friday, the main meeting is to commence the next day at 9:30 a.m. local time, or 5:30 p.m. on Saturday in Seoul.
The IOC earlier said the meeting would involve representatives from the PyeongChang organizing committee and the two national Olympic bodies, plus high-ranking government officials and IOC members from the two countries.
The South Korean delegation is composed of Culture and Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan, head of PyeongChang’s Olympic organizing committee Lee Hee-beom, Korean Sport & Olympic Committee President Lee Kee-heung and Ryu Seung-min, an IOC member.
Kim Il-guk, North Korea’s sports minister and head of its national Olympic committee, and Chang Ung, the North’s IOC member, are part of the North Korean delegation to Lausanne.
Meanwhile, a day after the joint press statement was issued by the South on the results of Wednesday’s meeting, North Korea also released its own version through state media outlets Korean Central News Agency and Rodong Sinmun.
The state media reports largely left out parts about the joint entrance and the unified women’s ice hockey team. Instead, they focused on the training on North Korea’s slopes and a cultural event at the mountain Kumgangsan, which is to take place before the opening of the Olympics.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)