South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday, June 24 invited North Korea to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, saying sports could serve as a peace maker, AFP reports.
The South and nuclear-armed North Korea are separated by one of the world’s most heavily armed borders and remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
But the centre-left Moon is known to favour engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table in a break from his conservative predecessors who took a hardline stance.
“I believe in the strength of sports that has been brokering peace,” Moon said.
“If a North Korean delegation takes part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, I believe it will greatly contribute to realizing the Olympic values of friendship and peace,” he said, according to a script of his remarks released by the presidential Blue House.
Moon also suggested the two countries pool their athletes to form joint teams for the games to achieve better performances.
The president was speaking at the opening of the World Taekwondo Championships in the southern county of Muju.
Also on hand was North Korea’s top sports official Jang Woong, the country’s sole IOC member, together with a North Korean delegation of athletes.
In March, Jang reportedly said in Japan that there was no reason for the North to stay away from the Olympics, but that the games would be hosted by South Korea.
In Seoul on Friday he said he would discuss the idea of co-hosting the Winter Games with Olympic chief Thomas Bach when he meets him in South Korea next week.
He was speaking after South Korea’s sports minister Do Jong-Hwan was quoted as saying some skiing events for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics could be held in North Korea, although officials insist he was misunderstood.
However, Do does plan to raise the idea of inviting North Korean players to join South Korea’s women’s ice hockey team for the Pyeongchang Olympics, a spokesman of the ministry said.
South Korea considered sharing some events at the Seoul 1988 Olympics with the North, but talks broke down and the North boycotted the Games.