North Korea Paralympic athletes to leave before closing ceremony

By Elizabeth Shim  |  March 14, 2018 at 12:24 PM
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March 14 (UPI) -- North Korea's Paralympic athletes are returning to their country Thursday, skipping the closing ceremony after exchanging personal greetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday.

The athletes and delegates, 24 in total, are leaving by a land route, said the South Korean unification ministry, according to local news service News 1.

"The North side's 24 visiting delegates are leaving tomorrow afternoon, on the Gyeongui Line after passing through the Inter-Korean Transit Office," the ministry said.

During the games that followed the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February, North Korea sent two Paralympic athletes, Kim Jong Hyon, 17, and Ma Yu Chol, 27, who participated in the cross-country skiing competition.

On Wednesday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in personally thanked the athletes and told the delegation that the South "would also like to visit the North" for future sporting events, Yonhap reported.

"Nice to meet you," Moon reportedly told Ma and Kim. "Thank you for your hard work. You will do well in the future."

The South Korean leader also asked about their experiences during the Paralympics, according to deputy presidential Blue House spokeswoman Ko Min-jeong.

The North Korean team thanked Moon and the South for "their hospitality," according to Yonhap.

North Korea has previously participated in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games, held in London and Rio de Janeiro, respectively.

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