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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