SOUTH Korea is proposing entering a joint women’s ice hockey team with North Korea at next month’s Winter Olympics following talks between the two feuding nations.
The North confirmed earlier this week it would be sending a delegation of athletes to the Olympics, which take place in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang from February 9 to 25.
The two countries are technically still at war – but Tuesday’s talks in the truce village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, were viewed as a breakthrough.
During the talks – the first to take place between the North and South in more than two years – Roh Tae-kang, South Korea’s second vice-minister for tradition, sports activities and tourism, brought up the possibility of combining the women’s ice hockey team.
As reported by the South Korean news agency Yonhap, the South has also made an offer to the North to have both countries’ athletes walk into the Opening Ceremony together under a unified Korean flag.
The sides have agreed to hold further talks, hosted by the International Olympic Committee, on January 20.
Pyongyang is yet to confirm the offers relating to the shared ice hockey team and united entry to the Games. However, it did confirm it has agreed to send a large delegation, including a cheering squad, to the games in Pyeongchang.
That, in itself, is seen as a major step forward in terms of improving relations between the nations.
South Korea’s women’s ice hockey team, who will play at their first Olympic Games, qualified for the competition owing to their status as host nation.
They will face Sweden, Switzerland and Japan in the round-robin stage of the tournament between February 10 and 14 at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung.