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The 2018 Winter Olympics could bring North Korea, South Korea together

By
Elizabeth Shim
Lee Seok-rae (R), mayor of Pyeongchang, South Korea receiving the Olympic flag from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (C) after it was passed from Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov during the Closing Ceremony at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 23, 2014. The 2018 Winter Olympics could bring North and South Korea together. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
Lee Seok-rae (R), mayor of Pyeongchang, South Korea receiving the Olympic flag from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (C) after it was passed from Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov during the Closing Ceremony at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 23, 2014. The 2018 Winter Olympics could bring North and South Korea together. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

As South Korea prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, some organizers in the country are hoping North Korea will send its national team to the sporting event.

The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, to be held from Feb. 9-25 next year, could build up to a theme of Korean unification with North Korea's participation, Yonhap reported on Tuesday, local time.

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The city of Pyeongchang is located near the site of one of the fiercest battles that took place during the 1950-53 Korean War. The remains of veterans who lost their lives in the area are still being excavated, according to the report.

But the facilities that have been built for the Winter Olympics have transformed the area, and if Pyongyang chooses to send its athletes, a battlefield where North and South exchanged fire could become a stage of friendly competition and amicable exchange.

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Lee Hee-beom, the South Korean president of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee, said last June the "doors [of the Olympics] are open to all nations as well as North Korea."

Lee had also said he hoped the event would be remembered as the "Olympics of peace."

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North Korea has previously sent teams to participate in international sporting events held in the South, including the Incheon Asian Games in 2014. Top Pyongyang officials, including Hwang Pyong So, Choe Ryong Hae and Kim Yang Gon attended the event.

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Kim died in late 2015 in a car accident, according to North Korea state media.

Ahn Hee-jung, a South Korean provincial governor who recently announced his presidential campaign, has proposed a "declaration of peace" that would include financial support for North Korean athletes in training, building a road between North and South for the event, and joint cultural performances.

Tensions are currently high between the two Koreas, and Kim Jong Un has recently pledged to continue developing nuclear weapons.

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