SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korean pairs figure skating tandem Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik have qualified for next year's Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Ryom and Kim scored 119.90 points in free skate to finish sixth among 16 teams with a career best 180.09 points overall at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, on Friday. This is the last Olympic qualifying competition, and the top five teams from countries that hadn't already qualified each earned a spot at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics for their nations.
Initially, four tickets to PyeongChang were at stake at this competition. But France returned one of its two Olympics berths in the pairs, allowing an extra spot to open up.
Though Ryom and Kim just missed out on the top five, three teams ahead of them were from Russia and Germany, two countries that had already secured Olympic berths.
Evgenia Tarasova and Vladmir Morozov of Russia won the competition with 218.46 points, followed by Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot with 211.08 points.
Another German tandem, Annika Hocke and Ruben Blommaert, finished fifth with 180.37 points.
Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc of the United States, another country that had already qualified for the Olympics, finished seventh.
With these four teams out of the equation, tandems from Australia (third overall), Austria (fourth), North Korea, Israel (eighth) and the Czech Republic (ninth) punched their tickets to PyeongChang.
Ryom and Kim, who barely missed out on Olympic qualification at the world championships earlier this year, represented North Korea's best chances of qualifying for PyeongChang 2018 in any sport. North Korea didn't have any qualified athletes at the previous Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
PyeongChang organizers and the South Korean government have called on North Korea to participate in the PyeongChang Games and help diffuse tension on the Korean Peninsula.
Meanwhile, the South Korean pair of Kim Su-yeon and Kim Hyung-tae failed to join the North Koreans, as they ranked 15th overall with 129.00 points total. They scored 88.25 points in Friday's free skate after earning just 40.75 points in Thursday's short program to rank last among 16 teams.
K-pop star Sulli found dead: police
(LEAD) K-pop star Sulli found dead: police
(2nd LD) K-pop star Sulli found dead: police
Justice Minister Cho Kuk offers to resign
(URGENT) Justice Minister Cho Kuk steps down from post