SEOUL – A delegation of North Korean athletes arrived in PyeongChang, South Korea, on Thursday, eight days before the start of the Winter Olympic Games.
The delegation, consisting of 10 athletes, three coaches and another 18 support staff members and headed by Vice Sports Minister Won Kil-U, arrived at the Yangyang International Airport at 6:09 am, a spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification told EFE.
The delegation traveled on a South Korean chartered plane together with South Korean skiers who were returning after a two-day visit to the North to train with North Korean athletes at Masikryong ski resort.
The airport is located near Gangneung, one of the venues of the Games. The North Korean athletes will stay at the city’s Olympic village.
The 10 athletes, including skaters and skiers, will be joined by 12 women’s ice hockey players, who have been in South Korea since last week training with South Korean players, with whom they will compete as a unified team for the first time since 1991.
The joint team from the two Koreas is a result of an historic agreement reached this month between the two countries – which have technically been at war for more than 65 years –, facilitating the participation of the North in the Games and allowing for the two Koreas to march under the same flag at the Games’ opening ceremony.
The Korean women’s hockey team will play an exhibition game against Sweden in Incheon, west of Seoul, their only warm-up match before the Olympics start.
The participation of the 22 North Korean athletes in the games was made possible through a special invitation by the International Olympic Committee, although only two of them – a pair of figure skaters – had qualified for the games.