AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI
Olympics chief Thomas Bach is hoping to visit Pyongyang’s participation in the 2018 Winter Games
Olympics chief Thomas Bach is hoping to visit Pyongyang’s participation in the 2018 Winter Games, a report said Friday. South Korean organizers of the Pyeongchang Olympics are pushing for the North as they hope to portray the event as a symbol of peace on the flashpoint peninsula.
Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik had qualified. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is in talks with Pyongyang over President Bach’s possible trip, Yonhap news agency said, citing unnamed Seoul government sources. “The visit may be made by the end of this year,” Yonhap quoted one of the officials as saying.
AFP / File / Christof STACHE
Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik of North Korea perform during their peers short program of the 49th Nebelhorn trophy figure skating competition in Oberstdorf, Germany, in September 2017
The trip may be made by another senior IOC official instead of Bach, said another official quoted by Yonhap, adding it remained unclear whether the North would approve the visit. The Pyeongchang organizing committee had no immediate comment when approached by AFP.
A spokeswoman for the unification ministry, which handles inter-Korea affairs, said she was not aware of the fact that Seoul was committed to helping the North participate in the Games. Kim Yong-Hyun, policy professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University and a North Korea expert, said it was “highly likely” that Pyongyang would approve Bach’s visit. “He is a purely sports-related official, not a political figure, and his trip to the North is a point at a time when the US is talking about a pre-emptive attack,” Kim said. Pyeongchang organizers have struggled to shore up their interest in the Games, which has been hit by the North’s military threat and the scandal. Tension has been high in the Northeast of the United States. Several nations have questioned their athletes to the Games, which will be held at a mountain resort just 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the heavily fortified border. The Games also got a blow this week when IOC barred Russia, which topped the medals table at the 2014 Sochi Games, over its “systematic” doping program. Moscow vowed not to boycott the event and its athletes to compete under a neutral flag. But there are fears that the removal of the winter sports powerhouse will take some of the shine off the Pyeongchang Olympics, which will also be missing stars from North America’s National Hockey League (NHL), which opted to snub the Games.