HAVING already fulfilled much of what it set out to achieve in Pyeongchang, North Korea has now managed to get South Korea to pay for hosting its delegation at the Winter Olympics.
South Korea has signed off a US$2.64 million deal to pay for the cost of hosting North Korean’s 400-strong delegation of performers, supporters and officials at the Games.
The funds will be released from South Korea’s unification ministry budget and will cover the costs of accommodation, food and logistics for the cheer squad, orchestra, taekwondo performers and support personnel who travelled south for the Olympics.
According to Reuters, the majority of the North Korean delegation stayed – or continue to stay – at luxury hotels in the capital Seoul and near the Olympic venues in Pyeongchang near the northeastern coast in South Korea.
Despite not yet winning a medal – a trend that is likely to continue for the remainder of the Games – North Korea has emerged as one of the big winners in Pyeongchang.
The delegation led by Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong provided a face to the secretive regime, with Kim Jong Un thanking the South for hosting the high-level representatives from his country.
While some claim the North has used the Games as a propaganda opportunity, and some South Koreans have protested against the thaw in relations, unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon has hailed the North’s participation as a milestone.
He added, though, that South Korea remains mindful of United Nations sanctions against the North, which is designed to prevent any foreign support of its weapons programme.
According to Reuters, the cost of hosting 22 North Korean athletes will be covered by the International Olympic Committee, while the cost for the visit of the North’s high level political delegation will be paid separately from the government budget.
After South Korea had to integrate 12 North Korean players into its women’s ice hockey team at the eleventh hour, the joint Korean team bowed out of the tournament proper on Wednesday without a win.
A 4-1 defeat against Japan sealed a win-less tournament for the joint Korean team, who were vociferously supported by the North’s cheer squad throughout.
With South Korea ranked 22nd in the world, they were not expected to advance beyond the group phase at the Olympics, and the team’s Canadian coach Sarah Murray said: “It’s been an adventure, everything that has happened to our team in the last three weeks it’s been tough.
“We knew coming into the tournament it was going to be tough and our goal of advancing was something we knew was a difficult, difficult challenge. But we thought if we played well together we could make it work. The three losses were unfortunate.”