The delegation of female ice hockey players and North Korean officials have arrived in Jincheon, South Korea, ready to take part in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics which will be held next month from February 9 to February 25. The team is comprised of a head coach, two coaching assistants and 12 players. South Korean officials and hockey players were on hand to receive their North Korean counterparts.
“I am glad the two Koreas could become one. If we join forces together in a short time, I hope there will be good results,” Park Chul-ho, the North Korean ice hockey team’s head coach, said during a brief welcoming ceremony.
An advance team of officials from the sports ministry of North Korea had arrived earlier with a view to inspecting the competition venues where the games will be held. This came in the wake of Pyongyang calling upon all Koreans to push for the unification of the North and the South.
Recently the North and South Korea agreed to fielding a joint women’s ice hockey team in the winter Olympics. Additionally the two countries have agreed to march together during the February 9 opening ceremony. The Korean Peninsula flag will be flown during this occasion.
Technically the two Koreas are still at war since the Korean war of 1950-53 was not ended by a peace treaty but rather by a truce. Last year tensions escalated dramatically after Kim Jong Un’s regime stepped up its nuclear development program in which the country is seeking to build a nuclear-tipped missile that is capable of reaching mainland U.S.
Some conservatives and opposition politicians in South Korea have criticized the response of Seoul to the participation of North Korea in the Winter Olympics arguing that Kim Jong Un is using the event to serve his own goals. The controversy generated has seen the approval ratings of the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, fall below 60% for the first time since his inauguration in May 2017.
The vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, intends to take advantage of his attendance at the Games to counter what Washington believes to be Kim Jong Un’s propaganda campaign.