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S. Korea willing to wait on N. Korea over PyeongChang 2018 participation

All Headlines 17:10 November 16, 2017

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is willing to wait until the last minute before North Korea makes a decision on whether to participate in next year's Winter Olympics south of the border, Seoul's sports minister said Thursday.

In an interview with Yonhap News TV, Do Jong-hwan, minister of culture, sports and tourism, said he remained hopeful that North Korea will compete at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The first Winter Games to take place in South Korea will go on from Feb. 9-25.

"The possibilities will remain open until January and February next year," Do said. "Olympic qualifications for some events will wrap up in January, and the pairs figure skating team of Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik have secured their Olympic berth. It's possible that North Korean coaches and officials will also participate."

Should North Korea decide to come to PyeongChang, Do said he is considering forming a joint Korean cheering squad.

"The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has asked us to form a single official channel in regards to talks on North Korea," the minister added. "And we've sent the IOC about nine to 10 proposals."

In this Associated Press file photo taken on Nov. 13, 2017, Do Jong-hwan, South Korean minister of culture, sports and tourism, speaks during a press conference at U.N. headquarters, where the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Olympic Truce for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. (Yonhap)

Do returned from New York earlier Thursday after the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Olympic Truce, a resolution calling for the peaceful running of PyeongChang 2018.

Do noted that there were 157 signatories for PyeongChang's Olympic Truce, up from 121 prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The minister also rejected earlier reports of possible Olympic boycotts by some countries over security concerns on the Korean Peninsula. France, Austria and Germany reportedly had reservations about sending their athletes to PyeongChang, located some 80 kilometers south of the heavily fortified border with North Korea. But Do said vice sports minister Roh Tae-kang has met with his counterparts for all three countries and got their confirmation of participation.

Do also said he was buoyed by the growing interest in PyeongChang 2018, which he said should lead to brisker ticket sales.

"I was worried that the Olympic torch relay wouldn't generate interest in some parts of the country, but it has created a boom nationwide," Do said. "And I've looked at some data on ticket sales at past Olympics, and the month immediately preceding the competition has been the busiest. We should be able to sell a lot of tickets in January."

Do also offered a glimpse into the opening ceremony, whose detailed plans have been kept under wraps.

"The theme of the show will be peace," the minister said. "We'll combine a fairytale-like atmosphere with unique technologies. As for the final torch bearer, we're keeping many different possibilities open."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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