SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea will be allowed to travel to South Korea for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics if it wishes to take part, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said on Monday.
North Korean athletes need approval from Seoul to enter the South as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically in a state of war.
The ministry’s comments come after Choi Moon-soon, the governor of the 2018 host city’s province, said on Sunday that a North Korean sports official had told him the North wanted to take part in the Games.
A North Korea sports delegation is currently in South Korea to take part in an international ice hockey competition in Gangneung, which will host some events during the 2018 Games.
Speaking in response to a question regarding North Korea’s participation at the Olympics, ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said there were no sanctions in place that prevented them from taking part.
“On North Korea participating in a sports event in South Korea, if they apply to come under regulations and procedures, our position is to approve it under regulations and procedures,” he added.
Seoul has also approved a trip to North Korea by the South’s women’s soccer team to take part qualifiers for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
Group B of qualifying for the Asian Cup finals in Jordan will be held in Pyongyang from April 3-11, with Hong Kong, Uzbekistan and India also involved. The match between the two Koreas is scheduled for Friday.
Tensions on the peninsula are currently high, with South Korea saying late last month that the North was ready to carry out a new nuclear test.
Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by John O'Brien