It's official: North Korea will compete in Winter Games

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South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-Gyon, left, shakes hands with North Korean delegation head Ri Son Gwon after the meeting.

Seoul, January 9: In a growing sign of thaw in bilateral relations, North Korea has decided to take part in the Winter Olympics to be held in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang next month.

This follows the high-level talks held between the two warring neighbours held on Tuesday (January 9) at the Panmunjom, the truce village in the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone that divides the peninsula.

North Korea may compete in Winter Games

The meeting was the first since December, 2015.

Concerns over North Korea have overshadowed the Winter Games, which Seoul and the organisers have proclaimed a "peace Olympics", urging Pyongyang to participate, unlike the 1988 Summer Olympics in the South, which it boycotted.

It looks all settled as of now with North Korean officials confirming their delegation for the Games to be held from February 9 to 25 would consist of athletes, high-ranking officials and a cheering squad.

It would also be the first time since 2005 for the North to send its female cheerleaders, dubbed the "cheering squad of beauty" by South Korean media.

It is worth mentioning that South Korea has unilaterally banned several North Korean officials from entering the country in response to Pyongyang's ramped-up missile and nuclear tests, conducted despite international pressure.

However, some South Korean officials have said they see the Olympics as a possible opportunity for easing tensions.

At Tuesday's talks, Seoul proposed inter-Korean military discussions to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and a reunion of family members in time for February's Lunar New Year holiday, South Korea's vice unification minister Chun Hae-Sung said.

South Korea also proposed that athletes from the two Koreas march together at the Games' opening ceremony and other joint activities between during the Winter Olympics, Chun told reporters outside the talks.

Athletes from the two Koreas have paraded together at the opening and closing ceremonies of major international games before, although it has not been seen since the 2007 Asian Winter Games in China after relations chilled under nearly a decade of conservative rule in the South.

(With Agency inputs).

Story first published: Tuesday, January 9, 2018, 14:42 [IST]
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