South Korean official suggests inter-Korean pair skating team

By Jennie Oh  |  Updated Jan. 3, 2018 at 8:33 AM
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SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- A South Korean official suggested forming an inter-Korean pair skating team to compete in the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, JoongAng Ilbo reported Tuesday, citing President of the South and North Korean Sports Exchange Association Kim Kyung Sung.

Kim and Choi Moon Soon, Mayor of Gangwon Province, the host region of the Olympics, sat down with North Korean officials last month in Kunming, China.

The closed-door meeting was held for two hours ahead of an international youth football competition that kicked off in the southern Chinese city.

Choi reportedly encouraged the North to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in February, offering to send a cruise ship to the Port of Wonsan to transport the North's athletes, cheerleaders and senior officials.

The Gangwon Province governor also said he would push for a united pair skating team between the two Koreas and urged his Northern counterparts to back the plan.

While South Korea's skating pairs did not qualify for the 2018 Winter Games, North Korean skaters Ryom Tae-ok, 18, and Kim Ju-sik, 25, made the cut at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany last year.

However, the North missed the deadline to confirm the duo's entry and their spot was passed onto Japan.

Choi said that if North Korean athletes are willing to participate, "the International Sports Federations has the right to use the wildcard" to accommodate their entry.

If a single pair team is formed, it would be the first inter-Korean team to enter an international sporting competition since 1991.

Pyongyang officials showed a positive response, according to the sports exchange association chief.

Moon Ung, a vice minister-level official who headed the North Korean youth football team said "We will make a comprehensive briefing. We will to give you a good response."

During the talks, North Korean officials reportedly said direct dialogue with the South is an important factor in deciding whether to take part in the Games.

They urged the South "not to rely on foreign powers."

Governor Choi is expected to cross paths with Pyongyang officials again this month at a friendly match between his local Gangwon FC and the North's April 25 Sports Club.

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