Published: Mon, January 22, 2018
Sport | By Gary Shelton

Olympic Torch Relay begins in South Korea

Olympic Torch Relay begins in South Korea

President Donald Trump recently encouraged North Korea to participate in the Olympics, and the US and South Korea have postponed military exercises responding to the North's nuclear and missile development program until after the games.

Pyongyang said the remarks it took issue with were in the vein of "the USA desperately trying to reverse the trend of detente and improvement of inter-Korean relations", seemingly referring to the breakthrough surrounding the Winter Olympics, according to a statement from the Permanent Mission of the DPRK to the UN.

The two countries had already agreed to compete under a unified Korean flag.

Hyon Song-Wol, reportedly an ex-girlfriend of leader Kim Jong-Un, would have been the first North Korean official to visit the South in four years, if Saturday's trip had gone ahead.

"We will focus our diplomatic capacity on inducing North Korea and the US into a dialogue process so that it could create a virtuous cycle of inter-Korean talks resulting in North Korea-US talks", the foreign ministry in Seoul said on Friday, quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

A year after performing at an event in Pyongyang to mark International Women's Day in 2012, she was reported to be among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by a firing squad.

The nuclear-armed North agreed last week to participate in the Olympics, which will take place just 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the peninsula, easing tensions over its banned weapons programmes.

Hyon is the lead singer of the Moranbong Band, who were handpicked by Kim Jong-un and serve as the "soft" public face of the regime.

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North Korea has no medal contenders.

Throughout the talks, South Korean officials supported the move to include their northern neighbor. Later Sunday, wearing a dark winter coat and fur scarf and with half her hair tied to the back, she looked more serious.

The National Olympic Committee of the DPRK, the National Olympic Committee of the ROK (Republic of South Korea), the organizing committee for the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang and IOC representatives took part in the talks.

The 22 athletes will compete in three sports and a total of five disciplines, including figure skating, short-track speed skating, cross-country skiing and Alpine skiing, in addition to hockey.

During an era of detente in the 2000s, their athletes marched together in the opening and closing ceremonies of nine worldwide sporting events, including the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but they failed to produce a joint team. It will be the first show in South Korea by a North Korean group since 2002. It wasn't clear why the visit was rescheduled.

The North had initially planned to send a seven-member advance team headed by the leader of a popular all-female Western-style band for a two-day visit, beginning today, to inspect venues for proposed performances in Seoul and the eastern city of Gangneung.

The North also informed the South of a plan to dispatch an eight-member delegation, led by a deputy director general at its Sports Ministry, Thursday, it added. He spoke about the decision on Sunday to the press.

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