Will the North send a cheering squad? Speculations rise about North Korea's Pyeongchang participation

North Korean athletes walking into the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium during the closing ceremony of the 17th Asian Games in 2014.
North Korean athletes walking into the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium during the closing ceremony of the 17th Asian Games in 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK)- Speculations are rising over the level of collaboration between the Olympic teams of the two Koreas following North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's overture.

Mr Kim, in a New Year's speech, said he was willing to send a North Korean delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Games hosted by the South, adding that both sides could "urgently meet" for talks.

In response, Seoul has proposed to hold the talks on Jan 9.

According to the Ministry of Unification, issues regarding details of the North Korean team's stay in South Korea will be discussed if the meeting suggested by Seoul takes place.

The issues include the North Korean team's accommodations, the route it will take to enter South Korea, and the order of entry at the opening and closing ceremonies.

 

The two Koreas' teams made their first joint-entrance at an international sporting event in 2000 at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games, and continued to do so until the 2007 Asian Winter Games in Changchun, China.

 

However, the two sides stopped making a joint entrance after inter-Korean relations began deteriorating in 2008, when a South Korean tourist was killed by a North Korean soldier in the inter-Korean resort on Geumgangsan.

The route the North Korean team could take is also raising much speculation, with President Moon Jae-in and other officials hinting at the possibility of North Korean athletes coming via a land route.

Moon, who has raised the possibility of North Korean participation in PyeongChang since his election campaign, commented in January that their taking a land route would be "a symbol of peace."

The land route between the two Koreas is cut off by the Demilitarised Zone.

Other possibilities include South Korea ferrying the North Korean team, as suggested by Gangwon Province Gov. Choi Moon-soon. According to local news reports, Choi suggested sending a cruise liner to transport the delegation if the North decides to participate in the upcoming games.

There has also been speculation over the question of North Korea sending a cheering squad.

North Korea has sent cheering squads to sporting events held in the South on three occasions. The first occasion was the 2002 Busan Asian Games, when a squad consisting of 288 individuals was dispatched. The squad was the subject of much media hype. Cheering squads were also sent in 2003 and 2005 for the Daegu Universiad and the Incheon Asian Athletics Championships, respectively.

The squad that was sent in 2005 is said to have included Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.