Swiss meeting to discuss Olympic issues

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Swiss meeting to discuss Olympic issues

South and North Korean government officials will convene at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Jan. 20 to hammer out details of the North’s participation in the upcoming Winter Games.

The IOC said in a statement Wednesday that its president, Thomas Bach, will chair a four-party meeting including a delegation from the PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee and members of the national Olympic committees from both countries led by their respective presidents.

Government officials from South and North Korea will also participate, the IOC said, which will lead to crucial decisions like the number of North Korean athletes and officials who will travel to South Korea’s Gangwon province next month for the Olympics.

The registration deadline for inclusion already expired, but the IOC has made exceptions for North Korea.

Also put up for discussion will be specific issues pertaining to North Korea’s participation, such as its flag, anthem, ceremonies and uniforms.

“I warmly welcome the joint proposals by the governments of the ROK [Republic of Korea] and DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], which have been applauded by so many other governments worldwide,” said Bach. “This is a great step forward in the Olympic spirit.”

The IOC must now “take the decisions to make this political commitment a reality,” he added.

The IOC announcement came shortly after foreign media reports indicated Bach met with Chang Ung, North Korea’s IOC member, for over four hours earlier the same day at the IOC headquarters, though details of the talk were undisclosed.

On Tuesday, during a high-level dialogue with Pyongyang, the first in over two years, Seoul acceded to North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Winter Games, ensuring necessary accommodations for North Korean athletes, cheerleaders, journalists, taekwondo performers, observers and senior government officials.

Both sides agreed to hold working-level discussions for the Olympics in the near future, their schedules shared and negotiated through documents exchanged via the Panmunjom hotline.

A senior government official from South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said Thursday that Seoul and Pyongyang have yet to discuss anything on the working-level meeting, though at least one such meeting will likely be held before the two countries meet on Jan. 20 in Lausanne.

The source denied Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon’s earlier comment that the North Korean delegation was expected to be comprised of some 400 to 500 people, saying the countries haven’t settled on a figure yet and that Lee was probably referencing the size of North Korean delegations at former sport events.

In the meeting Tuesday, Seoul told Pyongyang it hoped the North Korean delegation would be “as large as possible.”

The only North Korean athletes who qualified for the Olympics are the figure skating pair Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, but they failed to register before the deadline last October and the spot was given to Japan. IOC officials have since been broaching the idea of wild cards in case Pyongyang decides to join at the last minute.

The regime ignored Seoul’s repeated calls to join the Games until Jan. 1, when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in a New Year’s address that he was willing to send a delegation.

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