The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has welcomed North Korea's participation in the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, saying it represented "a great step forward" in the Olympic spirit.
On Tuesday, North Korea agreed to send its athletes, along with high-ranking officials, cheering and performing squads, press corps and national Olympic committee representatives, to the Feb. 9-25 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, about 180 kilometers east of Seoul and 80 kilometers south of the tense border. It will mark North Korea's first appearance in an Olympic Games held in South Korea. It boycotted the 1988 Seoul Summer Games.
IOC President Thomas Bach, who had pledged his support to ensure North Korea's participation, hailed this agreement.
"The IOC warmly welcomes the proposals which the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have agreed upon," Bach said in a statement issued late Tuesday, referring to the two Koreas by their official names. "These proposals mark a great step forward in the Olympic spirit."
The IOC added it is now waiting for official reports from the Tuesday meeting in regards to the number and names of North Korean athletes and the format of their participation.
North Korea's lone IOC member, Chang Ung, is traveling to Switzerland this week and is expected to have talks with Bach.
Though North Korea doesn't currently have qualified athletes, the IOC has hinted that it could be flexible and grant some extra Olympic spots for North Korea. The country's figure skating pairs team of Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik actually qualified for PyeongChang last September, but their national federation missed an Oct. 30 deadline to formally register the two for the competition.
South Korea on Tuesday proposed a joint march into the opening ceremony, but North Korea didn't immediately respond to it. The two sides will have further working-level talks on the North's Olympic participation, and they're expected to hammer out details on the possible joint march, including the flag and flag bearers. (Yonhap)