North Korea 'Sending 22 Athletes' to 2018 Winter Olympics

Hyon Song-wol leader of North Korea's well-known art performance group in a file

North Korea on Saturday proposed sending a delegation led by the leader of a hugely popular girl band to South Korea to check preparations for a trip by a North Korean art troupe during next month's Winter Olympics.

The North Korean delegation had been scheduled to visit yesterday but cancelled just before the visit with no explanation.

The North's participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korea's Pyeongchang has been interpreted as an apparent diplomatic breakthrough after months of high tension over the North's nuclear and missile programme.

"It would look weird to have a military parade in Pyongyang, just a day before the opening of what the South has declared a "Peace Olympics", Ahn Chan-Il, an analyst at the World Institute for North Korea Studies, told AFP.

The North Korean officials passed the customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) at 0902 KST and entered the South at 0917 KST.

Until the International Olympic Committee confirmation, a figure skating pair were the only North Koreans to have secured a spot at the Games through the conventional qualifying competition, although they lost their place after failing to register.

The North Korean delegation will also include 24 coaches and officials, plus 21 media representatives at the February 9-25 Winter Games.


The North's ruler Kim Jong-Un also traded colorful personal insults and threats of war with US President Donald Trump, sparking fears of another conflict on the peninsula once devastated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The current mood of reconciliation between the Koreas flared after Kim abruptly expressed his willingness to improve ties and send a delegation to the Olympics during his annual New Year's address.

It was suggested that the 8-member delegation, led by deputy director at Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports Yun Yong Bok, visit the South between January 25 and 27.

The North accepted the South's offer to send the advance team as part of its plan to stage a joint cultural event in the Kumgangsan region, according to the Ministry of Unification.

In the most symbolic agreement, 12 North Korean women's hockey players will join their neighbors in a united roster playing in special uniforms with a Korean song as their anthem, the Chicago Tribune reports.

In the face of criticism that forming a joint team is disadvantageous to South Korean athletes, who will have fewer chances to play, the government has emphasized that the move will pave the way for a possible reconciliation of the two Koreas.

The group's music is filled with propaganda messages.

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