North Korean Olympic athletes arrive in South Korea

A figure skating pair are among 10 North Korean athletes who have arrived in South Korea for the Winter Olympics.

There are also three alpine skiers, three cross-country skiers and two short-track skaters.

After landing at Yangyang International Airport on a rare, chartered flight between the two countries, they declined to answer reporters’ questions and boarded a bus for the athletes’ village in one of the Games venues, Gangneung.

With them were some non-Olympic South Korean skiers who had practised with North Korean counterparts at the North’s Masik ski resort.

During a two-day trip, they also participated in friendly competitions.

The resort “wasn’t largely lacking”, they said, compared to facilities in the South.

But the internet was slow, according to a pool report from South Korean reporters who had accompanied them.

They were, however, apparently treated to a 19-course meal at the resort.

The North Korean figure skaters secured their places at the Games through normal qualifying.

But they lost their positions by failing to register. They and the others have been given ‘quota’ places – a rarely-used form of wild card.

They are joining 12 ice hockey players who arrived in South Korea last month. The two countries’ players, who have been training together, will field a joint team in the sport.

Other North Koreans due to arrive include a 230-member cheering group and an art troupe 140-strong.

A volunteer at the Games, Choi Sangyoung, said he hoped the event would lead the two countries in a “peaceful and good” direction.

During the opening ceremony on 9 February, North and South Korean athletes will march under one flag.

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Rare inter-Korean talks began in early January. Later in the month, North Korea called on “all Koreans at home and abroad” to “promote contact (and) cooperation between North and South Korea”

North Korea’s 32-member delegation to the Games is being led by the country’s vice minister of physical culture and sports, Won Kil

 

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