Two Koreas may march under unification flag for Winter Olympics opening

If the two sides agree on a joint entrance at the opening ceremony, the athletes would march under the "Korean Unification" flag.
If the two sides agree on a joint entrance at the opening ceremony, the athletes would march under the "Korean Unification" flag.PHOTO: REUTERS / AFP

SEOUL (KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK)- South Korea has agreed to North Korea's proposal of holding working-level talks on Wednesday (Jan 17) at the truce village of Panmunjeom to further discuss its participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics, the South's Unification Ministry has said.

Seoul's sports minister also said if the two sides agree on a joint entrance at the opening ceremony, the athletes would march under the "Korean Unification" flag - a white flag with a blue shape of the Korean Peninsula in the centre.

The North's move, which came earlier on Monday, came in response to South Korea's offer last Friday to arrange formal talks. Seoul said it would send a three-member delegation led by Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae Sung.

"South Korea has agreed to North Korea's proposal to hold working-level talks at 10am at the Peace House (in Panmunjeom) on Jan 17, through the South-North communication channel at 4pm," the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The North will send a three-member delegation headed by Jon Jong Su, vice chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, added the ministry. The CPRC handles inter-Korean affairs within the North Korean government.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon has told reporters that there was "high possibility" of further working-level talks this week, before a separate meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. Both the South and North will attend a meeting on Saturday with IOC officials in Switzerland, where the IOC's headquarters are located.

On Wednesday, the two sides are expected to map out a travel route for the North Koreans coming to Pyeongchang in Gangwon Province.

They are most likely to cross the border by land, as travelling by air or ship could violate international sanctions imposed on the North. South Korea's unilateral sanction bans any vessel that has sailed to North Korea within the past 12 months from entering its waters, and the US has blacklisted Air Koryo, the North's state airline.

The possibility of inviting high-ranking delegates, who are blacklisted, is expected to be raised as well.

The issue of a "joint march" is forecast to gain more attention, with Seoul's Sports Minister Do Jong Hwan hinting at the possibility of marching under the Korean Unification Flag.

"The discussion is still ongoing, but the Korean Unification flag will be raised at the opening when a joint entrance is agreed upon," Do said during a meeting with lawmakers at the National Assembly,

South Korea has also proposed a joint march, in which athletes of the two Koreas enter together at the opening ceremony, and assembling a joint women's hockey team to compete at the games.

The North has displayed signs that it is positively considering both options. North Korea designed its own flag after the 1950-1953 Korean War, while the South continues to use the Taegukgi, which was adopted before the war to represent Korea.

The announcement for Wednesday's meeting came amid a separate inter-Korean working-level meeting held on Monday to hammer out the details of North Korea's plan to send an art troupe to perform at the Winter Games next month.