Friday 19 January 2018

North and South Korea agree to march under unified flag at Winter Olympics

The two countries have also agreed to form a shared women's ice hockey team in a historic first for the Korean peninsula, reports Samuel Lovett in Independent. Read on: 

North Korea and South Korea have agreed to march together under a single unified Korea flag at the Winter Olympics, according to South Korean officials.

Seoul's Unification Ministry says the Koreas reached the agreement during talks Wednesday at the border village of Panmunjom.

It says athletes from the two Koreas will march together under a "unification flag" depicting their peninsula during the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang.

The measures require approval by the International Olympic Committee, which will be consulted over the weekend.

The two countries have also agreed to form a shared women's ice hockey team in a historic moment for the peninsula. This will be the first time ever that a united team from the two Koreas has competed in the Olympics.

This follows the announcement, made earlier today, that North Korea will be sending a 230-person cheering squad to next month's Games as part of the country's 550-strong delegation, which will start arriving in South Korea on 25 January.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-Gyon (R) shakes hands with the head of the North Korean delegation Ri Son-Gwon during talks this week (Getty)
North and South Korea opened talks over the Winter Olympics  last week - the first time in two years the two nations have been in dialogue.

This has offered respite from rising tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, which it is pursuing in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

Despite an apparent thaw in relations between the two Koreas, Japan has urged caution over the North’s “charm offensive”.

“It is not the time to ease pressure, or to reward North Korea,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said. “The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working.”

The initial proposals to form a joint ice hockey team were also met with apprehension, with concerns being raised raised that South Korean players could lose their place to competitors from the north.

Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said on Wednesday that the government is aware of public concerns that adding North Korean players could displace South Koreans who have made the team.

Before Wednesday's announcement, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, during a visit to a training centre, told players: “I don’t know if it will happen, but a joint team will be a good opportunity for ice hockey to shed its sorrow as a less-preferred sport as many Koreans will take interest."

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