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IOC: North Korea will have 22 athletes at Pyeongchang Olympics

Jan. 20 (UPI) — LAUSANNE, Switzerland — North Korea will send 22 athletes to compete in three sports at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea, the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, said Saturday.

IOC President Thomas Bach made the announcement here after chairing a four-party meeting with representatives from the Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Committee and the respective national Olympic bodies of the two Koreas. IOC members from the two countries, Ryu Seung-min from the South and Chang Ung from the North, were also on hand.

Bach said that, in addition to those athletes in three sports and five disciplines — women’s hockey, figure skating, short track speed skating, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing — North Korea will also send 24 officials, including coaches.

The Koreas agreed Wednesday on the North’s participation in the first Winter Olympics to be held in the South and also on a joint women’s hockey team. It was up to the IOC to finalize the details, including protocols regarding the North’s uniform, anthem and flag, and the size of the North’s athletic delegation.

Bach said the IOC made “exceptional decisions” to ensure the participation of North Korean athletes since none qualified for the competition.

The Koreas will have a unified women’s hockey team competing under the Korean Unification Flag — an image of the Korean Peninsula in blue against a white background — and their anthem will be the Korean folk song “Arirang.” The team will use the acronym COR and will be the first joint Korean sports team at an Olympic Games.

South Korea named 23 players on Thursday, and North Korea will add 12 players. Game rosters are set at 22, with 20 skaters and two goalies, and the head coach Sarah Murray will have to pick at least three North Koreans for each match.

In other sports, the Koreas will compete in their respective uniforms. The pairs team of Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik will represent the North. They actually qualified for Pyeongchang last fall but missed an Oct. 30 deadline to confirm their participation.

In short track speed skating, Jong Kwang-bom in the men’s 1,500 meters and Choe Un-song in the men’s 500 meters will represent North Korea.

Han Chun-gyong, Pak Il-chol and Ri Yong-gum will compete for the North in cross-country skiing, and Choe Myong-gwang, Kang Song-il and Kim Ryon-hyang will compete in alpine skiing.

The IOC said it will provide any necessary technical equipment in cooperation with those sports’ international federations.

“The Olympic Games are always about building bridges; they never erect walls,” Bach said. “The Olympic spirit is about respect, dialogue and understanding. The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 are hopefully opening the door for a brighter future on the Korean Peninsula and inviting the world to join in the celebration of hope.”

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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