South Korea

AP

South Korea president calls for North Korea at PyeongChang Olympics

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea President Moon Jae-in said Saturday he hopes to see North Korean athletes at next year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea to ease tensions over the North’s nuclear program.

Moon made the comments during the opening ceremony of the world taekwondo championships in the South Korean town of Muju, where a North Korean delegation led by International Olympic Committee member Chang Ung was also present.

The championships, which will feature a performance by the North Korean taekwondo demonstration team, mark the first sports exchange between the Koreas since the liberal Moon took office in May.

Moon has expressed a desire to use the Feb. 9-25 Pyeongchang Olympics to reach out to North Korea, with relations between the two at their lowest point in decades. During his stay in the South, Chang is expected to meet South Korean officials to discuss cooperation at the Winter Olympics.

“If North Korean athletes participate in the Pyeongchang Olympics, I think it would greatly contribute in realizing Olympic values, which are about bringing humanity together and promoting world peace,” said Moon.

He recalled key moments in sports diplomacy between the Koreas, including when they sent unified teams to the world table tennis and youth soccer championships in 1991, and their athletes marching together during the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Participation in Pyeongchang could “provide a turning point for the reconciliation between the South and North,” Moon said. “I sincerely ask the IOC and (IOC member) Chang who are here with us today for their strong consideration and cooperation.”

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South Koreans identify preferred PyeongChang Olympic athletes, sports

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South Koreans are most interested in attending short track speed skating, the Opening Ceremony, ski jumping and figure skating at the PyeongChang Winter Games in February.

A survey of 1,000 people by the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism conducted in May resulted in 63 percent of respondents saying they believed the first Winter Olympics in South Korea would succeed. It marked an eight percent increase from an April survey.

About 40 percent said they were interested in the Olympics, a four percent increase, with nine percent saying they would attend.

The following events were the most popular for interest in buying tickets:

Short Track Speed Skating — 39 percent
Opening Ceremony — 31 percent
Ski Jumping — 30 percent
Figure Skating — 27 percent
Hockey — 23 percent

South Korea is of course dominant in short track. Of its 53 Winter Olympic medals, 42 have come in that sport, most by any nation.

Nine more came in long-track speed skating, with now-retired figure skater Yuna Kim taking the other two medals.

However, South Korea has never finished higher than eighth in an Olympic ski jumping event. The 2018 Olympic ski jumping venue has earned some attention, though, as it doubles as a soccer stadium for a club team.

Respondents also chose their most anticipated South Korean athlete of the Winter Games, with two-time Olympic long-track speed skating 500m champion Lee Sang-Hwa receiving the most votes of 79.

She was followed by another long track skater, 2010 Olympic 10,000m champion Lee Seung-Hoon, and short track skaters Shim Shuk-Hee and Choi Min-Jeong.

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North Korean athletes can cross DMZ for PyeongChang Olympics

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North Korean athletes are welcome to travel through the demilitarized zone for the Winter Olympics in February, PyeongChang 2018 president Hee-Beom Lee reportedly said Thursday.

“South Korea will welcome North Korea, and when they decide to come the South Korean government will allow them to come by road, and when they have supporting teams the Korean government will allow them to come by ship,” Lee said in London, according to Reuters. “All nations are very welcome, including North Korea and Russia. We want it to be the peace Games.”

When North Korean athletes compete in South Korea, they typically fly through Beijing, according to Yonhap News.

North and South Korea have been divided by the DMZ buffer since the Korean War ended in 1953. It stretches 250 miles long and is 2 1/2 miles wide, with armed troops on both sides.

However, North Korea is not assured of qualifying any athletes for the Winter Games. It had two athletes at Vancouver 2010 and none at Sochi 2014.

It boycotted the previous Olympics in South Korea in Seoul in 1988, but North and South Korean officials have been quoted saying North Korea plans to participate in PyeongChang.

North Korea’s best chance at qualifying may come in pairs figure skating, if its promising team is entered in the final Olympic qualifier in Germany in September.

“With or without qualification we are still talking with the International Olympic Committee and the relevant international federations for North Korea to participate,” Lee said Thursday, according to the BBC.

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