SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Korea Bizwire) — North Korea may send a team of two skiers to the PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games next month if it decides to participate in the multi-winter sport event in South Korea, an official of a U.S. civic group which supports North Korean athletes said Thursday.
Shin Young-soon, head of the Kinsler Foundation, said Pyongyang may send two para nordic skiers — Ma Yoo-cheol and Kim Jung-hyun — to the Winter Paralympics if the communist state decides to compete.
“Two athletes last month trained for about 10 days on Mount Paektu with a Canadian coach,” Shin said in a phone interview with Yonhap News Agency. “They’ll soon train at a ski resort near Frankfurt, Germany.”
The foundation supports North Korean athletes with disabilities.
Shin said the Ma and Kim will also compete at the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup in Oberried, Germany, slated for Jan. 20-28.
The two sit-skiers are expected to be the first two North Korean athletes to be registered on the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and can earn wild cards for the PyeongChang Paralympics. The IPC already announced that it will support North Korea to participate in the first Winter Paralympics in South Korea.
North Korea’s Paralympics participation is also rising after its leader Kim Jong-un said in his new year message that he would consider sending a delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics. The Winter Paralympics run from March 9 to 18 following the Feb 9-25 Winter Olympics in the South Korean alpine town.
“Since North Korea showed its intention to participate in the PyeongChang Olympics through Kim’s new year message, I believe that there’s also a big possibility the country also will send a delegation to the Paralympics,” she said.
North Korea has never performed at the Winter Paralympics, though it did take part in two Summer Paralympics. North Korea made its Paralympic debut in 2012 by sending one athlete to London, and was represented by two athletes at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Paralympics.