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Koreas to march together as one at PyeongChang Olympics opening ceremony

LAUSANNE -- South Korea and North Korea will march together as one at the opening ceremony of the upcoming Winter Games south of the border, a move that the world Olympic chief said will be "a very emotional moment" for the world.

Athletes from the two Koreas march together under a
Athletes from the two Koreas march together under a "unification flag" depicting their peninsula during the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. (Yonhap)

The International Olympic Committee on Saturday approved a request by the two countries to have their delegations march together under the name Korea at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which will take place Feb. 9. It was one of what the IOC chief called several "exceptional decisions" made by the IOC following a meeting at its headquarters here with representatives from both sides.

The Koreas will be led into PyeongChang Olympic Stadium by the Korean Unification Flag, which bears the image of the Korean Peninsula in blue against a white background. According to the IOC, there will be two flag-bearers, one from each Korea, with one female and one male athlete.

The unified delegation will don a special uniform with the Korean Unification Flag, and the team acronym will be COR.

"I am sure this will be a very emotional moment not only for all Koreans but for also for the entire world," Bach said. "Coming myself from a formerly divided country (Germany), it is a moment that I am also personally looking forward to with great anticipation and great emotion."

It will be the first joint Korean march into an opening ceremony at an international sports competition in 11 years and the 10th joint march overall.

The first came at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. Athletes from the Koreas also walked in together at the opening ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics and the 2006 Torino Winter Games.

There have been joint marches at two Asian Summer Games and two Asian Winter Games, as well as at a Summer Universiade and an East Asian Games. The last one came at the 2007 Asian Winter Games in Changchun, China.

South Korea and North Korea have been technically at war for over six decades since the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice, rather than a peace treaty.

Inter-Korean cooperation, sports-related or otherwise, had been virtually non-existent under Seoul's previous two conservative regimes. After liberal-minded President Moon Jae-in took office last May, South Korea adopted a more conciliatory stance, even amid North Korean military provocations.

Both Moon and Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan called on North Korea to participate in the competition, saying its presence would help improve strained inter-Korean ties.

The Intelso supported South Korea's overtures, saying such ideas reflect the Olympic spirit of promoting peace and goodwill.

The two Koreas held high-level talks on Jan. 9 to discuss North Korea's participation in PyeongChang 2018 after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's address that he would consider sending an athletic delegation. Then on Wednesday, at a working-level meeting, the two sides agreed to jointly march at the opening ceremony.

Bach, who chaired Saturday's meeting, thanked the two governments, since such an agreement "would have seemed impossible only a few weeks ago."

"The Olympic athletes can show us the way. They show us how to compete peacefully and how, despite all our differences, it is possible for humankind to live together in peace, respect and harmony," Bach added. "In this way, the Olympic Games show us what the world could look like if we were all guided by the Olympic spirit of respect and understanding." (Yonhap)

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