North Korean athletes arrive in South Korea for Olympic Games
Seoul, Jan 25: The first group of North Korean athletes arrived in South Korea on Thursday to participate as a joint team with the South in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, an official said.
The 12 ice hockey players would join South Korean players in a team that would represent the two Koreas for the first time since 1991, Efe news reported.
The delegation entered South Korea passing through the Korean Demilitarised Zone at 9.21 a.m., the South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement.
The group, consisting of three technicians and eight officials, besides the players, entered the South after spending 10 minutes passing through the customs, immigration and quarantine procedures in Paju Town, the gateway town.
The decision, however, has generated discontent in the South. The South Koreans consider it unfair for their national team to give minutes of the game to the athletes from the North, whose team has not qualified for PyeongChang.
After years of disagreement and tension over Pyongyang’s nuclear programmes, the decision to field the joint team was agreed upon earlier in January between the two Koreas, following “historic” talks between the two sides on January 9 after a gap of more than two years.
The leaders are of the opinion that this approach could contribute to facilitating a future dialogue on Pyongyang’s denuclearisation.
Both the Koreas would also parade together under a unified flag at the opening ceremony.
Seoul had asked the South Korean public to show support for the initiative and avoid demonstrations like the one on Monday here, when North Korean flags and photos of Kim Jong-un were burned.
Along with the group of athletes and technicians, a delegation of eight senior officials of the North Korean Sports Ministry also travelled to South Korea on Thursday.
The officials would stay in the neighbouring country for three days to inspect the sports venues and accommodation for all the North Korean athletes who will participate in the Winter Olympics that starts on February 9.
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