S Korea’s Moon urges IOC to help bring North to Pyeongchang

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

SEOUL: South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-In yes­ter­day urged the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee to help North Korea par­tic­i­pate in next year’s Win­ter Games, say­ing it would con­trib­ute to re­gional and world peace.

Moon, who has ad­vo­cated en­gage­ment with the iso­lated neigh­bour, has sug­gested that two Koreas form a joint team for the 2018 Win­ter Games, which the South is host­ing in Pyeongchang.

The South and the nu­clear-armed North are sep­a­rated by one of the world’s most heav­ily-armed bor­ders and re­main tech­ni­cally at war af­ter the Korean War ended with ar­mistice in 1953 in­stead of a peace treaty. Py­ongyang boy­cotted the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Or­gan­is­ers of Pyeongchang 2018 have urged Py­ongyang to take part to make them a “peace Olympics”.

But no North Korean ath­letes have so far qual­i­fied for the Games, rais­ing the prospect that none will at­tend.

An in­ter-Korea uni­fied team could al­low North Kore­ans to take part in team events such as ice hockey, while “wild cards” could en­able them to by­pass the qual­i­fi­ca­tion rules.

Meet­ing the IOC chief Thomas Bach in Seoul, Moon re­newed his push for “sports diplo­macy”, urg­ing Bach’s help to en­able the North to take part.

“If North Korea par­tic­i­pates, it will con­trib­ute not only to the Olympic spirit but also to re­gional and world peace as well as the har­mony of hu­mankind,” Moon’s spokesman quoted him as say­ing. “I hope that the Pyeongchang Olympics will be­come the Olympics of peace that could heal the pain of Kore­ans’ di­vi­sion,” Moon was quoted as say­ing. Bach’s spokesman said the IOC chief and Moon agreed to “co­op­er­ate closely” on prepa­ra­tions for the Games, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial par­tic­i­pa­tion by the North’s ath­letes. But in a state­ment the IOC did not go into de­tails over how that might hap­pen, re­fer­ring only to un­spec­i­fied “modal­i­ties”.

Bach said he “ap­pre­ci­ates very much Pres­i­dent Moon’s vi­sion of how the Olympic Games can sup­port di­a­logue and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion on the Korean peninsula and be­yond”, it added.

The North’s only IOC del­e­gate has ex­pressed doubt over Moon’s pro­posal of a uni­fied team, cit­ing po­lit­i­cal ten­sion be­tween two Koreas and a lack of time.

Chang Ung said last week there was not enough time to reach an agree­ment with the Games only seven months away, and stressed “the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion should be re­solved first”.

Ten­sion are high on the peninsula over the North’s mis­sile and nu­clear weapons pro­grammes, which have shown sig­nif­i­cant progress in re­cent years un­der leader Kim Jong-Un. —AFP

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