With five days of competition remaining, the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympics have "already" set a new record for ticket sales, surpassing the total number sold at Sochi 2014, according to Martin Belam of the London GUARDIAN. Sales have reached 320,531 for the Games. Friday's opening ceremony was attended by 21,000 people, while more than 100,000 purchased tickets for the first three days of competition -- "with a turnout rate of 75%." Approximately 90% of tickets for all remaining sessions have been sold. POCOG President Lee Hee-beom said, "The people of South Korea have embraced the passion of the Games and many are experiencing Para sports for the very first time" (GUARDIAN, 3/13). YONHAP reported the three most popular events so far have been the wheelchair curling match between South Korea and Canada on Monday, the ice hockey match between South Korea and Japan on Saturday and the wheelchair curling match between South Korea and Germany on Monday, according to the POCOG (YONHAP, 3/13). KYODO reported "despite the strong figures, attendance at many events such as alpine skiing and biathlon has been spotty," with empty seats being assigned to staff and volunteers. The POCOG said that the "discrepancy between ticket sales and attendance arose from the large number of bulk ticket purchases." Groups such as businesses and schools can buy tickets in large quantities but leave a chunk of seats empty if they do not attend, "a phenomenon compounded by the South Korean school year beginning in March" (KYODO, 3/13).
'INTERNATIONAL PROPAGANDA': In Seoul, Cho Yun-myung reported North Koreans "expressed doubts" about their country's participants in the Paralympics, according to Radio Free Asia. A source from North Hamgyeong Province said that North Korean athletes at the 2018 Paralympic Games were likely to have been "arranged in a hurry by North Korean authorities to utilize the Winter Games for international propaganda." The source said, "It is impossible for a person with congenital disabilities to become a national athlete by their own will in this country." A North Korean defector who came to South Korea in '17 "supported the point," saying that "a person with disabilities cannot even set foot in downtown Pyongyang" (KOREA HERALD, 3/13).