North Korea plans to ship a 230-member cheering squad as a part of its delegation to subsequent month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, officers mentioned Wednesday, as South Korea’s president introduced his help of a proposal for the rivals’ first unified Olympic group.
The 2 Koreas have been urgent forward with a flurry of initiatives to cooperate within the Feb. 9-25 Olympics in Pyeongchang since North Korean chief Kim Jong Un abruptly mentioned in a New Yr’s speech that he was prepared to ship a delegation to the video games.
Critics say Kim’s overture is an try to make use of improved ties with South Korea to weaken U.S.-led worldwide sanctions on North Korea whereas shopping for time to good his nuclear weapons program. The strikes nonetheless have offered a short lived thaw within the Koreas’ long-strained ties and fostered optimism that North Korea received’t launch any new provocations, at the least in the course of the Olympics.
The North’s participation within the Olympics “will function an opportunity to heat solidly frozen South-North ties,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in mentioned throughout a go to with South Korean Olympic athletes.
“But when we march collectively (in the course of the opening ceremony) or discipline a single group, I believe that may be an extra step in creating South-North relations.”
Moon spoke whereas officers from the 2 Koreas have been assembly at a border village for the third time in a couple of week, with North Korea saying it’s going to ship a 230-member cheering squad to the Olympics in addition to a delegation to the Pyeongchang Paralympics in March.
The officers additionally mentioned fielding a joint girls’s ice hockey group and having their athletes march underneath a “unification flag” depicting the Korean Peninsula, as an alternative of their respective nationwide flags, in the course of the opening ceremony, in line with Seoul’s Unification Ministry. It mentioned North Korea proposed that its Olympic delegation journey to South Korea throughout the closely fortified land border.
Throughout earlier talks, the 2 Koreas agreed that the North will ship a 140-member artwork troupe as a part of its Olympic delegation, together with athletes, high-level officers, journalists and a taekwondo demonstration group.
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The concepts floated by the 2 Koreas are extremely symbolic and emotional. However South Korean media predicted solely as much as 10 North Korean athletes would find yourself being lined by an extra quota by the Worldwide Olympic Committee to compete in Pyeongchang as a result of no North Koreans are at present certified.
A pair of North Korean determine skaters certified for this yr’s Olympics, however North Korea missed a deadline to substantiate their participation.
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Some conservative critics say North Korea’s cheering and inventive squads are too large and fear the North might attempt to steal the present on the Olympics to launch what they name a “peace offensive.”
North Korea additionally despatched feminine cheering squads when it attended earlier worldwide sports activities occasions in South Korea. The teams, dubbed “magnificence squads” by South Korean media, typically obtained extra consideration than their athletes. Kim Jong Un’s spouse, Ri Sol Ju, was a member of a 2005 squad.
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The IOC mentioned not too long ago it has “saved the door open” for North Korea to participate within the video games. IOC officers are to fulfill with sports activities and authorities officers from the 2 Koreas and officers from the Pyeongchang organizing committee in Switzerland on Saturday.
South Korea desires the IOC to permit the hockey group’s 23-player Olympic roster to be expanded in order that a number of North Korean gamers may be added with out eradicating any of the South Korean gamers.
If a joint hockey squad is realized, it could be the Koreas’ first unified Olympic group.
There are worries in South Korea that including new gamers lower than a month earlier than the Olympics would weaken the group and deprive South Korean gamers of taking part in time.
“Including any individual so near the Olympics is just a little bit harmful only for group chemistry as a result of the ladies have been collectively for thus lengthy,” Sarah Murray, the South Korea girls hockey group’s head coach, instructed reporters Tuesday, in line with the Yonhap information company. “I believe there’s injury to our gamers.”
Moon acknowledged the joint group isn’t more likely to significantly enhance the group’s energy and will require a number of effort by the gamers.
“But when South and North Korea kind one group and compete within the video games, that will likely be an eternal historic occasion, which I believe will transfer our folks and folks world wide,” he mentioned.
North Korea underneath Kim Jong Un has made sports activities, and particularly success in worldwide sporting occasions, a excessive precedence. Whereas it’s not a significant winter sports activities competitor, North Korean athletes have set a number of weightlifting world information and its girls maintain a excessive profile on the world soccer scene.
When touring overseas, nevertheless, North Korean athletes and coaches are likely to cloister themselves away from outsiders when they don’t seem to be competing or working towards. Defections are possible a priority, together with what their minders would possibly deem to be ideological “contamination,” so they’re saved underneath shut scrutiny.