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(LEAD) Two Koreas not to have joint march at opening ceremony of PyeongChang Winter Paralympics

All Headlines 21:29 March 08, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with details; ADDS photos)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, March 8 (Yonhap) -- The two Koreas have decided not to have a joint march at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics, the South's Korean Paralympic Committee (KPC) said Thursday.

South and North Korea previously agreed to have a joint parade behind the Korean Unification Flag, which shows image of the Korean Peninsula in blue, at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics at the Olympic Stadium in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on Friday.

The KPC said the two Koreas had a meeting earlier Thursday to discuss the details of the joint parade at the opening ceremony, but failed to reach agreement on whether they should march behind a Korean Unification Flag showing Dokdo -- the eastern islets of South Korea that Japan claims as its own territory. Dokdo, called Takeshima in Japan, consists of a set of rocky islets lying close to the Korean Peninsula in the East Sea. It has long been a recurring source of tension between the neighbors.

This file photo taken Feb. 9, 2018, shows South and North Korean athletes marching together behind the Korean Unification Flag during the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)

The North said that it wants the flag to show Dokdo. It emphasized that not showing the islets hurts the pride of Koreans. The South, however, apparently wanted to have the Korean Unification Flag without Dokdo to respect the International Paralympic Committe (IPC)'s recommendation not to politicize sports events.

The IPC was also reluctant use the flag with Dokdo and said that it wants the two Koreas to use the same Korean Unification Flag that was carried in at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games a month ago. For the opening ceremony of the Feb 9-25 Olympics, both Koreas marched under a Korean Unification Flag without Dokdo.

The IPC then decided that it did not want any further debate on the issue and recommended the two Koreas march in separately at the PyeongChang Paralympics opening ceremony, according to the KPC.

The KPC said its President Lee Myung-ho later had another meeting North Korea's Paralympic delegation chief Kim Mun-chol, also the head of the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled (KFPD), but the two sides failed to narrow their differences.

"We wanted to have a moment of harmony for a peaceful Paralympics and Korean unity, but decided to respect each other's stance on the issue," the KPC said. "We hope both sides can continue to cooperate and contribute to having a successful Paralympic Games."

Although the joint march of the two Koreas will not happen, the KPC said it proposed to the IPC that representatives of the South and the North carry the Paralympic torch together for the relay during the opening ceremony.

North Korea will make its Winter Paralympics debut following an invitation from the IPC. It sent a 24-member delegation to PyeongChang on Wednesday.

The IPC Governing Board in January endorsed a proposal for South and North Korea to march together during the ceremonies of the PyeongChang Paralympics.

This file photo taken Feb. 9, 2018, shows South and North Korean athletes marching together behind the Korean Unification Flag during the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr
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