North Korea to send athletes, performers to Winter Olympics

By Jennie Oh
North Korea to send athletes, performers to Winter Olympics
South Korean delegates (L) and their North Korean counterparts hold high-level talks at the border village of Panmunjom, North Korea, on Tuesday. Photo by EPA-EFE

SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- North Korea says it could send a large delegation of athletes, performers and officials to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month.

The two Koreas held a high-level meeting Tuesday for the first time in two years. The five-a-side discussion began at 10 a.m. Seoul time at the Peace House, located in the border village of Panmunjom.


Both sides "shared views on improving inter-Korean relations such as the North's participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and other matters of mutual interest," Chun Hae-sung, Seoul's vice unification minister, said in a briefing after the meeting.

Seoul officials asked the North to send many of its athletes and a cheering squad to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, Yonhap reported.

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The North responded that it could dispatch a delegation of athletes, cheerleaders and high-ranking officials, including members of the Olympic body. It also proposed sending teams of reporters, performers and taekwondo practitioners.

The North also showed willingness for the two Koreas to make a joint entrance at the Games, Chun said.

He said chief envoys from each side held a separate meeting around 11:30 a.m. to discuss specific details and exchange views on other matters of mutual interest.

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The South requested inter-Korean Red Cross talks to arrange reunions of family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War around the Lunar New Year holidays in Feburary, News 1 reported.

It also called for military talks to prevent accidental clashes along the military demarcation line, as well as dialogue on "denuclearization and halting actions that stir tensions on the peninsula."

North Korean officials said the two Koreas should "ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula, aim for reconciliation and unity and resolve problems through dialogue and negotiations," according to Chun.

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The vice minister said the two sides must "set up the environment" to continue discussions on specific details of such issues.

The South-North exchange was held after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in his New Year's address, offered to hold talks with Seoul and send a delegation to the Olympics.

The two sides, since then, have moved toward improving their ties, restoring a direct communication line running through Panmunjom.

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Ahead of the Tuesday meeting, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, the South's top envoy for the talks, said the initial dialogue would be a "good first step" toward better relations and expressed hope that progress would be made "calmly without rush."


His counterpart, Ri Song-gwon, chairman of the North's Committee for Peaceful Reunification, said he'd come with hopes that the talks would produce "precious results" to the Korean people as a "new year present."

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