Waving Korean Unification flags, which feature a blue silhouette of the Korean Peninsula on a white background, 43 people from the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, known as Chongryon, arrived at Seoul's Gimpo airport around 12:15 p.m. via a Korean Air flight from Tokyo's Haneda airport.
They are part of the first contingent of 106 cheerleaders to be sent by Chongryon. Another group of 43 people from the Japanese central prefecture of Osaka also arrived at the airport.
|Waving a Korean Unification flag, Pae Ik-ju, leader of a cheering group from the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, known as Chongryon, arrives at Seoul`s Gimpo airport on Feb. 8, 2018. (Yonhap)|
"We are very pleased to set foot on the South's soil and see our compatriots," said Pae Ik-ju, leader of the cheering group and vice chief of Chongryon. "We will cheer earnestly to show the Korean people's status in the Olympics, help improve North-South relations and achieve the reunification of our fatherland at an earlier date."
At the airport, the Koreans from Japan were welcomed by members of the South Side Committee for Implementing June 15 Declaration, a body that calls for the implementation of a set of agreements for inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation signed at the end of the landmark inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang in 2000.
The group, which will stay in South Korea for five days, will head to the city of Sokcho on South Korea's east coast before attending the opening ceremony Friday in the nearby alpine town of PyeongChang. South and North Korea will march together under the flag at the opening ceremony and field a unified women's ice hockey team.
On Saturday, the group is scheduled to visit Gangneung, the sub-host city of the Olympics, and return to Seoul the next day before leaving for Japan on Sunday.
A 441-member delegation from Chongryon visited South Korea in 2002 to take part in the Asian Games in the South Korean coastal city of Busan.
Chongryon members are required to get travel certificates, instead of visas, for their entry, as their nationalities are "Chosun," meaning they are categorized as "stateless." The South Korean Foreign Ministry issues the travel certificates within eight days of the application date under ordinary conditions.(Yonhap)