The two Koreas have found temporary peace in sports as they agreed on Wednesday to form their first unified Olympic team. The neighbors and fierce rivals will also have their athletes parade together for the first time in 11 years during the opening ceremony of next month’s Winter Olympics to be held in South Korea.
Officials said the agreement reached by the two Koreas will still need the approval from the International Olympic Committee. The move, however, is a major milestone for the bitter rivals since they recently started exploring cooperation during the Olympics following a tense-filled year over North Korea’s nuclear weapons expansion program and aggression in the region.
Senior officials from both camps on their third day of talks in about a week at the border reached a package of agreements including fielding a joint women’s ice hockey team and marching together under a “unification flag” depicting their peninsula during the opening ceremony.
A joint statement distributed to media by the ministry said the North Korean Olympic delegation will travel to South Korea. The delegation will include a 230-member cheering group, a 30-member taekwondo demonstration team, and journalists, athletes and officials.
Before the Pyeongchang Olympics, the two Koreas will also conduct a joint cultural event at the Diamond Mountain, a scenic area in the North. They will also have non-Olympic skiers train together at the North’s ski resort. The statement says the North also plans to send a 150-strong delegation to the Paralympics in March.
Despite the agreements being highly symbolic and emotional, it is still not clear how many North Korean athletes will actually come to Pyeongyang because none are currently qualified.
The current reconciliation mood was set by North Korean rogue leader Kim Jong Un when he said in a New Year speech that he was willing to send delegates to the games, and talk to their rival South Korea. Critics pointed out, however, that Kim could just be exploiting the reconciliatory tone towards Seoul to weaken U.S.-led international sanctions and pressure on his country while buying time to further strengthen, if not perfect his nuclear weapons program.