Figure skating: North Korea qualifies first athletes for Pyeongchang 2018

Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik of North Korea in action in Germany, Sept 28, 2017.
Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik of North Korea in action in Germany, Sept 28, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

OBERSTDORF, Germany (REUTERS) - North Korea on Friday (Sept 29) secured qualification for its first athletes at South Korea's Pyeongchang Olympics in February when figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik finished in the top six in a qualifying event.

The pair's Olympic qualification is seen as positive development amid an escalating crisis on the Korean peninsula and the potential complications this could have for the Games.

The Pyongyang natives successfully completed a solid short programme on Thursday and produced an even better free skate performance to "Je suis qu'une chanson" to make sure of one of five Olympic qualifying spots on offer.

Kim pumped his fists at the end of their routine, hugging his partner before a team official wrapped a jacket over him.

The International Skating Union (ISU) confirmed their qualification for Pyeongchang, with Russia and Germany, who were top, having already qualified for the Games in South Korea.

"The pair have qualified for the Olympics with one of the five qualifying spots as Germany and Russia have already qualified," an ISU official told Reuters.

The final decision regarding their Olympic participation rests with the North Korean Olympic committee which needs to give the green light.

North Korea did not have any athletes at the 2014 Sochi winter Games.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has risen in recent weeks as North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump exchanged war-like threats and insults over the North's nuclear and missile development programme.

The North has accused Trump of declaring war after he warned Kim's regime would not last if he persisted in threatening the United States and its allies, having earlier warned North Korea would be totally destroyed in such an event.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in July the North will be given until the last minute to decide whether it will take part in the Olympics.