By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
Following the announcement by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in his New Year Message, that he was willing to send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, to be held at the beginning of February in Pyeongchang, South Korea, talks subsequently held between officials from North and South Korea have resulted in an agreement for the two Koreas to field a joint women’s ice hockey team and march under a single Korean ‘unification’ flag at the Games.
This will be the first time that they have done so since the Winter Olympics in Turin in 2006.
Also, they will take part in a joint cultural festival at the Mount Kumgang resort and will jointly train at the Masikryong ski resort, both in North Korea.
The plans were announced by the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, who said that he hoped for an end to the military tensions that have recently brought the Korean peninsula close to war.
The North Korean Delegation will include 550 people, including 230 cheerleaders and 30 masters of the martial art of taekwondo, who will put on demonstration matches. The delegation will also include a 140-member Samjiyon Band, an orchestra supported by dancers and singers, who will also perform during the Pyeonchang Games
The only North Korean athletes to formally qualify for the Games are the figure skaters, Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik.
The participation of North Korea in the Games will be as much about politics as about sport.
It will be very interesting to see what happens after the Games regarding the ongoing state of the relations between the two Koreas.
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’