- North Korea announced on Tuesday that it would be
sending an Olympic delegation to the upcoming Pyeongchang
- The logistics of bringing over a North Korean
delegation to the South are complicated as the two countries
are technically still at war.
- Questions of how North Korea will enter the South,
where its delegation will stay, and ensuring its citizens’
safety have all been raised.
North and South Korea made huge strides on Tuesday during an
official meeting between the two countries, the first in more
than two years.
One major breakthrough was the announcement that North Korea will
participate in the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. North
Korea will send athletes, an art troupe, cheering squad,
Taekwondo demonstration team and a press corps.
North Korean figure-skating duo Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik
qualified for the Olympics in September, however the
country’s Olympic Committee failed to register them by the
October deadline. The International Olympic Committee
announced on Monday it would extend North Korea’s deadline so
its delegation could compete.
But the logistics of bringing over a North Korean delegation to
the South remain complicated.
Some North Koreans may arrive by road, but others by ship
Physically getting the North Korean delegation to the Olympic
Games is a hurdle in itself.
Lee Hee-beom, president of the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee,
suggested North Korean athletes would enter the South by crossing
the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
If they did so, it would be the first time North Korean athletes
arrived at an official sporting event in South Korea by land.
But the offer has not been extended to the non-athlete delegation
“South Korea will welcome North Korea and when they decide to
come the South Korean government will allow them to come by road
and when they have supporting teams the Korean government will
allow them to come by ship,” Lee told
In 2002, when North Korea sent a 606-member delegation to the
Asian Games in South Korea’s Busan, many members of the group
traveled by cruise ship.
The following year, 528 North Koreans attended the Summer
Universiade in Daegu, South Korea, and arrived by plane. Flights
for athletes to South Korea are relatively common, and often
arrive via Beijing, according to
Delegates may walk into the stadium with South Korea
On Tuesday, South Korea’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung
told reporters that the South had floated the idea of having both
Koreas march into the Opening Ceremony under a unified flag.
There was no immediate confirmation of that plan.
While North and South Korea have remained at odds since the
Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953, the countries have
united through sport — even competing together as one team for
soccer and table tennis competitions — in the past.
The Koreas marched together for the first time under a unified
flag in Sydney’s 2000 Olympic Games and did so again for the 2002
Asian Games held in Busan, South Korea.
However, as political tides shifted so did the practice of
marching together. The countries last did so at the 2007 Asian
Games in China, marking a freeze in their diplomatic ties.
The North Koreans will probably stay on board a cruise ship
Yonhap, the cruise ship that organizers offered to the North
has some 390 rooms and could be used to accommodate up to 1,000
people. The ship could plausibly be used as the delegation’s
lodgings during the Olympics, similar to ship accommodations made
available in Busan in 2002.
In previous Olympic Games, North Korean delegations have been
invited to stay in vibrant Olympic villages, but
often keep to themselves.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, athletes were reportedly
not allowed out of their Olympic compound except for training
The South has come up with creative lodging solutions for the
North’s delegations in the past.
At the Universiade games in 2003, North Korean athletes stayed at
a local bank’s training facility, outside of the athlete’s
It’s unknown who will foot the bill
It’s unclear who will pay for additional training, transport and
accommodations for Pyongyang’s delegation.
In previous years, South Korea often paid for the North’s
delegations to attend competitions in its country, according to
But in the lead-up to the 2014 Asian Games, the South said it
would follow international norms that stipulate attending
countries should pay their own way. North Korean officials then
reportedly “stormed out” of a planning meeting.
But last year, South Korea indicated the IOC would shoulder some
of the costs.
“The IOC has expressed their willingness to support North Korea
in terms of training costs and other costs related to
participating at the Games,” South Korean Sports Minister Do
The IOC also helped
provide training equipment to North Korean athletes last
Experts are divided on whether such provisions technically breach
UN sanctions against North Korea.
But the hope is that having a North Korean delegation
will make the Games safer
Expert consensus finds that the Olympic Games should be safer
with a North Korean delegation within the South’s borders,
mitigating the risk of an attack.
Still, South Korea is bolstering its security measures due to
past rhetoric on the Korean Peninsula.
Reuters, South Korea’s Defense Ministry will deploy 5,000
armed guards at the Pyeongchang Games, and will also increase
cybersecurity measures to guard against hacking from the North.