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IOC’s Bach makes three-day trip to Pyongyang

Mar 31,2018
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach landed in Pyongyang on Thursday, raising the question of whether he would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during his three-day visit. As of press time Friday, no report on the former Olympian’s meeting with Kim had been made and Bach was set to leave the North Korean capital Saturday morning.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency on Friday released a photo in which Bach was shown with North Korean IOC member Chang Ung along with other IOC delegation members.

The IOC announced its chief’s visit to the North on Thursday on its website, saying the visit followed an invitation from North Korea that was extended during an IOC meeting on Jan. 20 in Lausanne.

It was during that meeting that the two Koreas agreed to march as one team under the unified flag of the Korean Peninsula during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games. The decision to field a joint South-North women’s hockey team was also reached at the Lausanne meeting.

The IOC described those developments a “message of peace from the Korean Peninsula to the world” on its website.

The two Koreas first marched under the unified flag in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and this year’s joint march was the first of its kind since the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic Games.

In line with the decisions reached at the Jan. 20 meeting, the North not only sent Olympic athletes but also a cheerleading squad and an arts troupe, easing military tensions and paving the way for inter-Korea talks. Most notably, Kim sent his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, to the South to watch the opening ceremony and have talks with President Moon Jae-in. Kim Yo-jong became the first Kim family member ever to come to the South.

The IOC said Bach’s delegation will have discussions on the “further development of sport in the DPRK after the successful participation of athletes at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018; and the preparation of athletes from the NOC [National Olympic Committee] of the DPRK with the objective of qualifying for and participating in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, as well as the Youth Olympic Games 2020 and 2022.” DPRK is an acronym for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]