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Rival parties collide over NK's participation in PyeongChang Olympics

South Korea's ruling and opposition parties clashed on Sunday over the formation of a unified, inter-Korean team, as Seoul and Pyongyang are speeding up discussions about the details of North Korea's participation in the 2018 Winter Games.

On Saturday, the International Olympic Committee said North Korea will be allowed to send 22 athletes to compete in three sports, paving the way for the two Koreas to establish a joint team for women's hockey at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

While the ruling Democratic Party welcomed the move, claiming the joint team falls in line with the spirit of the Olympics, the main opposition party said the joint team contradicts that spirit by taking advantage of the sporting event for political purposes.



"The Moon Jae-in administration has given up the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and declared it the Pyongyang Olympics," Rep. Chang Je-won, the spokesman for the Liberty Korea Party, said in a statement.

Chang claimed that the Moon administration has "tainted" the spirit of the international event, saying the joint team may result in the glorification of North Korea's Kim Jong-un as a peace leader.

Responding to the statement, the ruling Democratic Party said the main opposition party should be patient, claiming that there needs to be mutual trust between the two Koreas in order to repair their relationship, which was cut off under the previous Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations.

"The Liberty Korea Party should refrain from making statements that insult the residents of Gangwon Province as well as the people who have been making various efforts for a successful PyeongChang Winter Games and Paralympics for many years," the ruling party said in a press release.

The minor People's Party claimed South Korea should refrain from making hasty moves and not feel pressured over Pyongyang's participation.

The 2018 Winter Games kick off in the alpine county of PyeongChang, located 180 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 9. (Yonhap)