Koreas to jointly march, field joint women's hockey team for Olympics


In South Korea, it was felt a unified 23-member team would prevent deserving South Korean skaters from participating.

But the South's liberal President Moon told South Korean Olympic athletes on Wednesday that the North's participation in the Games would help improve inter-Korean relations.

"The Olympic Games show us what the world could look like, if we were all guided by the Olympic spirit of respect and understanding".

The upcoming Olympics, which are the 23rd Winter Games, will take place in South Korea's PyeongChang on February 9-25, 2018.

Incorporating North Korean players to a settled South Korean ice hockey team could also pose problems, as the team's coach, Sarah Murray, highlighted this week.

One national team source, who also requested anonymity, said North Korean players will feel pressured to perform because they're joining a team that has already been together for a few years and will face stiff competition from higher-ranked opponents.

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The final deal cleared 22 North Korean athletes to compete in three sports and a total of five disciplines.

Figure skating pair Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik qualified in September, but the North missed the October 30 deadline to register them.

The seven-member inspection team was going to be led by Hyon Song-wol known as the current leader of the all-female band Moranbong, favored by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The women's hockey team will skate under a unification flag and compete as Korea, dropping the geographical designations of each country. The two countries have held working-level talks since.

It would be the first time both Korean Olympic committees compete in a single team.

The announcement came after the North notified Seoul late on Friday that it would suspend the team's trip to check the venues for its proposed art performances in the South.

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A delegation of 150 North Korean athletes and supporters will attend the Paralympics, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

The 12-member South Korean delegation was suggested to visit the DPRK via an eastern land route for two nights and three days.

That would in turn pave the way for the nuclear issue to be addressed and open the way to dialogue between the North and the United States, he said according to Yonhap news agency in Seoul. The North Korean delegates are head and shoulders shorter than their southern counterparts, due to the starvation rations that they have had to live under while money goes to nuclear research.

"This team will be a great symbol of the unifying power of Olympic sport", Bach said, while also thanking the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) for its "enthusiastic cooperation".

So, when the medals have all been won, the world will nearly certainly find itself back at square one: Worrying again about whether Kim and US President Donald J. Trump are just a misstep or an angry tweet away from reaching for those nuclear buttons they've bragged about.

"In our opinion, the direct dialogue that started between Seoul and Pyongyang, as well as the agreements that were reached during it, give grounds to believe that during the Olympic Games, the situation on the peninsula will be relatively stable", Morgulov said.

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