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N. Korea set to make 1st Winter Paralympics appearance

All Headlines 23:02 January 17, 2018

SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is set to make its first ever Winter Paralympic Games appearance after Pyongyang decided to send its delegation to the multi-sport event for disabled athletes in South Korea following an inter-Korean meeting Wednesday.

In the meeting between the two Koreas at the Peace House on the southern side of the shared border village of Panmunjom, North Korea agreed to send a 150-member delegation of athletes, cheerleaders, an art troupe and reporters to the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics. The event will run from March 9 to 18.

The two sides also agreed to further discuss details of the North's Paralympic participation.

North Korea has yet to perform at the Winter Paralympics, though it did take part in two Summer Paralympics. North Korea made its Paralympics debut in 2012 by sending one athlete to London and was represented by two athletes at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Paralympics.

Earlier in the day, Lee Myung-ho, who heads the Korea Paralympic Committee, and Lee Hee-beom, the chief organizer of the PyeongChang Winter Games, said they welcomed North Korea's Winter Paralympic participation south of the border and will give their best support should the communist nation indeed send a delegation.

N. Korea set to make 1st Winter Paralympics appearance - 1

Although the two Koreas agreed to have North Koreans at the Paralympic Games, they will still need to consult with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) over various issues, including the size of the North Korean athletic delegation and the format of the North's participation.

To take part in the Paralympic Games, athletes need to earn quotas for the quadrennial event by collecting good results in international competitions or by receiving wild card slots from the IPC. With less than two months left to the PyeongChang Paralympics, North Korea's realistic scenario for participation will be earning wild cards.

For wild card consideration, North Korean athletes need to be registered in the IPC database and then wait to be classified based on their physical abilities. But at this moment, no North Korean athletes are registered in the IPC database.

Earlier this month, it was reported that North Korea was considering sending two para nordic skiers to the PyeongChang Paralympics. Shin Young-soon, the head of the U.S.-based Kinsler Foundation, which supports North Korean disabled athletes, said that the two sit-skiers will compete at the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup in Oberried, Germany, this week and they will be registered on the IPC database for wild card selections for the PyeongChang Paralympics.

The IPC is expected to discuss North Korea's Winter Paralympic Games participation issue at its executive meeting in Germany later this month. The IPC previously said it will support North Korea taking part in the first Winter Paralympics in South Korea.

North Korea's PyeongChang Paralympic participation may take similar steps to that of its Winter Olympic participation.

After North Korea agreed to send an athletic delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics following the high-level inter-Korean talks on Jan. 9, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to have a four-party meeting Saturday at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to discuss the North's presence at the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The IOC earlier said the meeting will involve representatives from PyeongChang's organizing committee and the two national Olympic bodies, plus high-ranking government officials and IOC members from the two countries.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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