North, South Korea To March Together At Opening Ceremony
North and South Korea agreed on Wednesday to "march their athletes together under one flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics next month and to field a joint women's ice hockey team," according to Choe Sang-Hun of the N.Y. TIMES. It was the "most dramatic gesture of reconciliation between them in a decade." South Korea said that it "hopes such a partnership in sports could contribute to a political thaw after years of high tensions," as the prospect of war over the North's nuclear and missile tests has "grown especially acute." The women's ice hockey squad will be the "first combined Korean team for the Olympics." The countries' delegations will march at the opening ceremony behind a "unified Korea" flag that shows an undivided Korean Peninsula, negotiators from both sides said in a joint news release after talks at the border village of Panmunjom. The countries also agreed on Wednesday that their skiing teams "would train together in the Masikryong ski resort in North Korea." The resort, a "showpiece project "of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was opened in '13 (N.Y. TIMES, 1/17). The BBC reported if the plans are realized, "a hundreds-strong North Korean delegation" -- including 230 cheerleaders, 140 orchestral musicians and 30 taekwondo athletes -- "could cross into the South via the land border to attend." The North also agreed to send a smaller, 150-member delegation to the Paralympics in March (BBC, 1/17). REUTERS' Shin & Kim reported Japanese Foreign Minister Tarō Kōno said that the world "should not be naive" about North Korea's "charm offensive" over the Olympics. He said, "It is not the time to ease pressure, or to reward North Korea. The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working" (REUTERS, 1/17).
'NOT IN FAVOR': YONHAP reported with a joint Korean women's team approved, Switzerland is "none too pleased" with the prospect of facing an expanded roster in the tournament. Olympic ice hockey rosters are set at 22 but South Korea is "seeking cooperation" from the IOC and IIHF to "have a larger team, with as many as 35 players on hand." Switzerland, which is South Korea's first opponent, argued that "giving only the Korean team extra players would create an uneven playing field." Switzerland Ice Hockey Federation Head of Communications Janos Kick said, "In terms of sports and for all teams who invest a lot of money and resources in their women's teams, we are not in favor of this since it's not fair and distorts competition" (YONHAP, 1/17).