North Korea gives strongest sign yet of Pyeongchang 2018 participation

North Korea gives strongest sign yet of Pyeongchang 2018 participation
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North Korean officials have reportedly declared the country’s intent to take part in next year’s Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea.

Talks are said to have taken place at the ongoing International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship Division II Group A tournament at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, a Pyeongchang 2018 venue.

Choi Moon-soon, the governor of Gangwon Province, claimed a North Korean sports official confirmed his country will participate.

“When I asked him if North Korea will send athletes to Pyeongchang, he said they will be here,” Choi said according to news agency Yonhap.

The official, from the North Korean Sports Ministry, reportedly told Choi that the North Koreans will attempt to send “as many athletes as possible” through qualifying events.

Pyeongchang 2018 President Lee Hee-beom claimed in February that North Korea have a right and a responsibility to compete at next year’s Winter Olympics.

Lee made the statement at a one-year to go press conference, where he was asked if tensions between the two countries could see North Korea opt out of sending athletes to compete.

The Pyeongchang 2018 President said that a North Korean delegation would be welcomed at the Games, claiming their presence could promote peace between the nations.

North Korea boycotted the Olympics the last time they took place in South Korea, when Seoul hosted the Summer Games in 1988.

More recent multi-sport Games in South Korea have had a North Korean presence, however, with a delegation attending both the 2002 Asian Games in Busan and the 2014 edition of the event in Incheon.

Despite the friction between the two countries, Lee was optimistic they would compete in the Games as he stressed that Pyeongchang 2018 would seek to promote peace.

Suggestions had been raised back in 2015 that North Korea could potentially co-host some events at the Winter Olympics.

A suggestion was raised by Gangwon Province Governor Choi Moon-soon that the country could host some of the snowboarding events in an effort to ease tensions.

This proposal was swiftly dismissed by Pyeongchang 2018, however.

Last week, the South Korean Government sought assurances that North Korea will guarantee the safety of their football players when they take part in Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup qualifying matches this month.

The games are due to take place in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang between April 3 and 11, with the Korean rivals due to meet on April 7.

-Max Winters