North Korean Olympics Delegation Could Reach Double Digits

(ATR) North Korea may send 20 athletes and staff to the Winter Olympics.

(ATR) North Korea may send 20 athletes and staff to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, according to South Korean newspaper The Hankyoreh.

According to South Korea Unification Minister Myoung Gyon Cho, North Korea is expected to send 10 athletes and 10 staff members to represent the country in the Olympic competitions.

However, the official Olympics delegation represents just a fraction of the expected representation by North Korea during the Games. Following the first inter-Korean dialogue in more than two years on Jan. 9, North Korea agreed to send a high-level delegation of taekwondo demonstrators, a cheering squad, state officials and cultural performers in addition to the athletes and Olympic staff.

While the number of Olympic staffers per athlete cannot exceed 60 percent at the Summer Olympics, North Korea’s one-to-one ratio proposed for PyeongChang 2018 is permitted for the Winter Olympics.

Reportedly included in the North Korean proposal is the ability for the athletes and staff to travel to South Korea via airplane. North Koreans are currently only permitted to enter South Korea by land due to sanctions by the United Nations.

More details about North Korea’s participation in PyeongChang 2018 will be determined at two sets of talks between North and South Korean diplomats, scheduled for Jan. 15 and Jan. 20 in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and Lausanne, Switzerland, respectively.

Talks in Lausanne will include South Korean International Olympic Committee member Seung Min Ryu and North Korean IOC member Ung Chang. Media reports have said Chang is already in Lausanne in discussions with the IOC.

The Presidents of the North Korean and South Korea National Olympic Committees, PyeongChang 2018 officials, and government officials from North and South Korea will also be a part of the Lausanne talks, which IOC President Thomas Bach will chair.

No Major World Leaders Expected

No major world leaders are expected at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang next month, according to South Korean press.

Around the Rings understands that PyeongChang 2018 does have a list of confirmed world leaders, but it will not be released until closer to the Games.

South Korean President Jae In Moon and his administration have been trying to invite as many foreign leaders as possible. However, leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin do not seem inclined to attend the event.

President Trump told President Moon this week that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence will lead the U.S. delegation in South Korea.

"The underlying message is the President is sending us there to make it clear that we stand with South Korea, we stand with our allies in the region," Pence told Fox News on Wednesday.

During a phone call on Thursday, Moon requested Xi's attendance at the Closing Ceremony to which the Chinese President said he would help ensure a smooth transition from the PyeongChang Olympics to the next Winter Olympics hosted by Beijing in 2022.

Officials in the Japanese government confirmed that Prime Minister Abe will not attend the Olympics, according to Japanese newspaper Sankei. The newspaper reports Abe’s dissatisfaction with the South Korean reversal on the two countries’ agreement on the issue of comfort women is the primary reason for not attending.

With the Russian presidential election coming up in March, Putin could also bypass the Games. Russian athletes have been banned from competing under the Russian flag at the PyeongChang Olympics after the IOC found evidence of "systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system.

Russian athletes who can prove their independence of the doping systems can compete under the Olympic flag and title of "Olympic Athlete from Russia".

North Korean Premier Kim Jong Un is not expected to attend the Games but his right-hand man,Workers’ Party vice chairman Choe Ryong Hae, could be among the high-ranking officials in attendance.

A total of 99 countries have confirmed their intent to join the Games, including North Korea, with more than 6,500 athletes expected to compete. The number of participating countries and athletes will be finalized on Jan. 29.

Written by Miguel Hernandez

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