SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Korea Bizwire) — North Korea has said it could send a delegation to the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics, giving a boost to the bi-annual sporting event.
In a New Year message on Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hinted at sending a delegation to South Korea during the upcoming Winter Olympics, while wishing success for his neighbors to the south.
“The Winter Games to be held in South Korea will be a good occasion for the country. We sincerely hope that the Winter Olympics will be a success,” Kim said during his speech televised on the state-run TV station.
“We are ready to take various steps, including the dispatch of the delegation. To this end, the two Koreas can immediately meet,” he added.
Kim’s comment about the PyeongChang Olympics in a more cooperative tone has been met with approval in South Korea, as experts believe North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games could help raise the profile of the event and put to rest worries about the geopolitical safety on the peninsula.
North Korea’s cooperation is expected to raise the number of visitors and attract more sponsors, given the international community’s interest in the country shrouded in secrecy.
Thus far, North Korea has sent a delegation to international sports events held in South Korea on three occasions, including the 2002 Asian Games in Busan when a massive delegation of over 700 athletes visited the southern port city.
During the 2002 Asian Games, North Korean cheerleaders enjoyed international media coverage over their beauty.
In 2003, a record high number of 225 delegates including 94 athletes participated the Summer Universiade in Daegu, finishing the event in the 9th position.
North Korea also sent a delegation to Busan for the 2014 Asian Games, helping mend the relationship between the two countries.
As Pyongyang missed the deadline in October to confirm the participation of its figure skaters and short-track speed skaters, North Korean athletes are now left with wild-card entries granted by the International Olympic Committee as their only option.
The South Korean government has been ramping up efforts to promote the PyeongChang Olympics in recent weeks, in a move to defy difficulties including the absence of the Russian national team over a doping scandal.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)