Governor is pushing idea of joint skating team

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Governor is pushing idea of joint skating team

Gangwon Governor Choi Moon-soon proposed fielding a joint Olympic figure skating team to North Korean officials at a recent meeting in China, a source who accompanied Choi told the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday.

Choi met with Mun Ung, a vice-minister-level official who headed the North Korean youth football team, on the sidelines of an international football tournament in Kunming, southern China, on Dec. 18 last year. Kim Kyung-sung, head of the South-North Sports Exchange Association, accompanied Choi, and other North Korean officials also accompanied Mun.

According to Kim, Choi proposed that an inter-Korean figure staking team be created for the PyeongChang Olympic Games. “I will work hard to realize this plan, and you should also recommend the idea [to the North Korean government],” Choi was quoted as saying by Kim during the meeting.

Kim said the North Korean officials responded positively. “I will debrief the plan comprehensively,” Mun was quoted as saying by Kim. “I will put efforts into give you a positive response.”

If realized, it would be the first time since 1991 for the two Koreas to field a joint team at an international sports event.

According to Kim, the meeting took place for about two hours before a welcome dinner at the international football competition. Mun is the third highest sports official in North Korea after Choe Hui, chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Jong-mu, a minister-level official who heads the April 25 Sports Club.

Choi is an enthusiastic champion of the PyeongChang Games, which are taking place in his province. At the meeting, Kim said Choi invited North Korean athletes, cheerleaders and senior delegates come to the Games, offering a cruise ship for their travel to and from. Kim also said Choe will likely head a North Korean delegation if it participates.

The two sides also discussed issues other than sports.

“The North was very well informed about the June 13 local elections,” Kim said. “It seems that the North didn’t want to make too much noise before the election.”

A North Korean official said at the meeting that the North wants to make an “independent” decision removed from outside pressure on whether it will participate in the PyeongChang Games.

“It is important for us to have direct talks with the South, including Governor Choi, before making the decision. The South should also not rely on outside forces,” Kim quoted the North Korean official as saying.

Choi will have more contact with the North on Jan. 15, when the two Koreas have a friendly football match in China.

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