DPRK, ROK to march together at PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games

DPRK, ROK to march together at PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games

DPRK, ROK to march together at PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games

North Korea will send 22 athletes, and 24 coaches and officials to next month's Winter Games in South Korea, the International Olympic Committee announced Saturday.

The IOC on Saturday approved the Koreas' agreement to field a unified women's hockey team and to march together in the Opening Ceremony behind the Korean Unification flag. North Koreans will compete under their own flag in all other sports.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon came under fire when he said South Korea's women's ice hockey team is out of medal contention.

Seoul will also send skiers to the North's Masikryong ski resort for joint training with nothern skiers and hold a joint cultural event in the scenic Mount Kumgang area north of the border, according to the deal.

The IOC must sign off on the deal agreed Wednesday, including both teams marching together under a Korean unification flag in the February 9 opening ceremony and fielding a united women's ice hockey team.

North Korea's unexpected participation, negotiated in talks at the heavily fortified border between the two nations since the start of the year, has been hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough that could herald peace on the Korean Peninsula.

"The two sides are discussing the details needed for entry and exit", a senior South Korean government official told the Yonhap news agency.

"Such an agreement would have seemed impossible only a few weeks ago", said Bach, who did not take questions from worldwide media.

"The Olympic Games are always about building bridges, they never erect walls".

"The Olympic spirit is about respect, dialogue and understanding", Bach said after making the announcement in Lausanne. "The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula". All three athletes will compete in both the Giant Slalom and Slalom events.

Bach said the International Olympic Committee made "exceptional decisions" to ensure the participation of North Korean athletes since none qualified for the competition.

Led by veteran troupe member, Hyon Song-wol, the art troupe is poised to showcase the world a softer side of the dictatorial Kim Jong-un regime, otherwise known for its ambitious nuclear and missile programme. "The IOC today has taken exceptional decisions and has allocated additional quota for 22 athletes from the NOC of the DPRK, who will compete in three sports and five disciplines in Pyeongchang", Bach said. The Koreas previously marched together at the Opening Ceremonies in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

The Samjiyon art troupe, which comprises orchestra members, singers and dancers, is part of North Korea's Olympic delegation that also includes athletes, officials, journalists and a taekwondo demonstration team.

The North will separately send a 150-strong delegation to the Paralympics, Chun said.

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