Park Soo-hyun, senior Cheong Wa Dae secretary for public communication, in a file photo. (Yonhap)
South Korea has a duty and obligation to take a special interest in the Beijing Olympics as the host of the previous games and will decide later whether it is appropriate for President Moon Jae-in to attend the opening ceremony, a Cheong Wa Dae official said Wednesday.
Moon earlier said South Korea is not considering a diplomatic boycott of February's Beijing Olympics after the United States decided not to send an official delegation to the games over concerns about China's human rights abuses.
"The South Korean government was the host nation of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics," Park Soo-hyun, senior presidential secretary for public communication, said in an interview with Yonhap News TV. "As the host nation of the previous Olympics, taking a special interest in next year's Beijing Winter Olympics is our duty and obligation."
When asked if Moon could personally attend the opening ceremony, Park left the possibility open.
"We can't prejudge at the moment," he said. "A decision will likely be made in consideration of various factors at the time of the opening."
Park stressed that any decision regarding the Olympics will be made strictly in the national interest and that he expects the US to understand Seoul's position as the previous host nation.
Washington's decision has left Seoul in a delicate position as it seeks to balance its relationship with its biggest ally with its close trading relationship with Beijing.
The boycott also throws cold water on Seoul's hopes to use the Olympics as a venue for inter-Korean reconciliation, as during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, and to possibly declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War. (Yonhap)