South Korea proposes joint march, hockey team with North Korea at Olympics

Seoul, Jan 12: South Korea has proposed assembling a joint women’s hockey team with North Korea at the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics, a senior government official said Friday.

“Putting together the unified Korean team was discussed during Tuesday’s inter-Korean meeting, along with a proposal for a joint parade into the opening ceremony at the Feb. 9-25 Olympics” said Vice Sports Minister Roh Tae-kang.

Roh made the comment while visiting Jincheon National Training Center in Jincheon, 90 kilometers of Seoul, for a new year kickoff meeting.

Roh was a member of the South Korean delegation at the meeting, after which North Korea agreed to send a delegation to PyeongChang 2018, the first Winter Olympics to be held in South Korea. South Korea’s proposal of a joint hockey team wasn’t immediately made public on Tuesday.

North Korea didn’t immediately respond to the joint march proposal. The two Koreas are likely to hold working-level talks next week to further discuss the issue before a Jan. 20 meeting to be chaired by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Koreas fielded joint teams at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships and the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship. But they have never had a unified team in any sport at multi-sport competitions like the Olympics or the Asian Games.

For the PyeongChang Olympics, North Korea doesn’t have any qualified athletes and will need special wild-card spots granted by the IOC. In figure skating, the tandem of Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik could receive a spot. They qualified on merit last September but North Korea didn’t confirm their PyeongChang participation on time the following month.

On Monday, the IOC extended the deadline for North Korean athletes to register for the Games. So far only a figure skating pair has secured a spot, though several other athletes could qualify through special places offered by the Olympic body.