North Korea misses Olympic figure skating deadline, but door still open

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At the moment, North Korea has no athletes qualified for the PyeongChang Olympics. But that could change.

North Korea’s Olympic Committee missed an Oct. 30 deadline to confirm it would send its qualified pairs figure skating team to the Winter Games.

The International Skating Union confirmed Tuesday that it has received no communication from North Korea, which qualified a pairs spot in September.

By ISU rules, the pairs spot originally earned by North Korea will be offered in two weeks to the top nation not already qualified, which is currently Japan. Japan would have until Dec. 21 to tell the ISU that it plans to use the spot.

The ISU said that North Korea could still be added to the Olympic pairs field, but the move would have to come from the International Olympic Committee.

An IOC spokesperson did not address that possibility later Tuesday, repeating that North Korea’s Olympic Committee has been invited to the Olympics, and the IOC has offered its support.

The IOC, as well as PyeongChang organizers and South Korean officials, have repeatedly said they want North Korea to participate in the Olympics.

“The position of the IOC is very clear,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in June, according to The Associated Press. “We have already invited the DPRK (North Korea) to participate in the Winter Games in 2018. We are supporting athletes in order to assist them to qualify for the Olympic Games.”

There have also been reports that North Korean athletes could receive Olympic spots without qualifying.

A North Korean sports ministry official said North Korean athletes will be at the Olympics, the governor of PyeongChang’s province reportedly said in April.

That statement came five months before pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik became the first North Korean athletes to qualify Olympic spots for the country.

“It is up to the North Korean Olympic Committee to decide whether they will participate or not,” the pair’s coach, Kim Hyon Son, said after they qualified, according to The New York Times.

Ryom, 18, and Kim, 25, could become the first North Koreans to compete at an Olympics hosted by South Korea. North Korea boycotted the 1988 Seoul Games.

It wasn’t certain that North Korea would qualify any athletes for PyeongChang.

Despite winning at least four medals at every Summer Games since the boycott, North Korea didn’t have any athletes at the Sochi Olympics and just two at Vancouver 2010.

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