South Korean President Moon Jae-In on Monday urged the International Olympic Committee to help with inviting North Korea to 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.
In a meeting in Seoul with the IOC chief Thomas Bach, Moon renewed his push for so-called “sports diplomacy,” urging Bach’s help to allow the North to take part in the event.
“If North Korea participates, it will make contribution not only to the Olympic spirit but also to regional and world peace as well as harmony of the humankind,” Moon’s spokesman quoted him as saying during the meeting.
“I hope that the Pyeongchang Olympics will become the Olympics of peace that could heal the Koreans’ hurt by division,” Moon was quoted as saying.
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.
Bach praised Moon’s peace gesture as being “in line with Olympic spirit” and vowed to make efforts to help open the door for North Korean athletes to join the Games, according to the spokesman.
But the German did not go into details over how that might be done.
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 Pyeongchang, 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.
But the North’s only delegate to the IOC earlier expressed doubt over Moon’s proposal, citing political tension between two Koreas and a lack of time.
Chang Ung said 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.
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