2018 Winter Olympics: Don't mistake PyeongChang for Pyongyang

Skiing equipment displayed at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre on Jan 22, 2016.
Skiing equipment displayed at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre on Jan 22, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

(AFP) - With a one-letter shift from lower to upper case, the South Korean venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Pyeongchang, hopes to ensure visitors do not end up flying to the capital of North Korea by mistake.

Briefing the foreign media in Seoul on Tuesday, the governor of Gangwon province, where the ski resort is located, acknowledged that the venue name was similar enough to Pyongyang to lead some winter sports fans dangerously astray.

"Because of the similarity, foreigners can get confused," Mr Choi Moon Soon said.

"So, in order to avoid further confusion, we have decided to rebrand it as PyeongChang with an upper-case C," Mr Choi added.

The governor backed his concerns by citing the example of Mr Daniel Olomae Ole Sapit, a member of Kenya's semi-nomadic Maasai tribe, who learnt the difference between the two places the hard way.

Invited to attend a UN conference on biodiversity in Pyeongchang in September 2014, Mr Sapit mistakenly flew to Pyongyang, where he was interrogated for five hours by suspicious North Korean immigration officials.

After paying a US$500 (S$715) fine, he was eventually put on a plane back to Beijing.

The official website of the 2018 Games organising committee already bears the new PyeongChang spelling, as do a series of TV commercials airing on CNN and Eurosport.

Pyeong means "peace" in Korean and Chang means "prosperity".

"We hope the games will bring peace and prosperity to the whole world," Mr Choi said.