Rival Koreas agree to form first unified Olympic team
North and South Korea have agreed to set aside their differences and march together in the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony — and even to field a joint ice-hockey team, it was announced Wednesday.The delegations from the two Koreas will march under the unification flag in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month.
In another breakthrough, the rival countries will field a single women’s ice hockey team.
The North’s delegation is also set to include a 230-member cheerleading squad known as the “Army of Beauties,” a 140-member art troupe, officials, athletes, journalists and a taekwondo demonstration team, Reuters reported.
It will be the first Olympics hosted on South Korean soil with North Korea’s participation. When the summer games were held in Seoul, in 1988, the North boycotted.
The South’s chief negotiator said it was only in the last few weeks that the two sides came together.
“Under the circumstances where inter-Korean [relations] are extremely strained, in fact just some 20 days ago we weren’t expecting North Korea would participate in the Olympics,” said Chun Hae Sung.
The two countries have sent joint teams to major international sports events twice before, both in 1991.
One event was the world table tennis championships in Chiba, Japan, where the women’s team won the championship by beating the powerful Chinese, and the other was soccer’s World Youth Championship in Portugal, where the Korean team reached the quarterfinals.
Their last joint march was at the Asian Winter Games in Changchun, China, in 2007.
Japan, which fears it could be targeted by North Korean missiles, warned about the “charm offensive” by its normally belligerent neighbor.
“It is not the time to ease pressure or to reward North Korea,” Taro Kono told officials Tuesday at a Vancouver meeting of 20 nations to discuss the global threat posed by Pyongyang.
“The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working,” Kono said.
With Post wires