GANGNUENG, South Korea, Jan. 25 (UPI) — North Korean officials on Thursday began their inspection of major venues for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to prepare for their country’s participation in the games, a rare sign of reconciliation with the South.
The eight-member advance team led by senior sports official Yun Yong-bok arrived in the South along with 12 women’s ice hockey players, who will form a unified team with South Korean athletes.
On the first day of their three-day visit, the advanced team’s members checked venues in the sub-host city of Gangneung, 260 kilometers east of Seoul.
The team first toured the Inje Speedium in the adjacent town of Inje, one of the accommodation options for North Korea’s cheerleading squad.
They later inspected the Gangneung Ice Arena, which will host ice events. The advance team then visited the Gangneung Hockey Centre, Gangneung Village and Kwandong Hockey Centre, where the two Koreas’ unified ice hockey team will compete.
Yun declined to respond to South Korean journalists. The team will continue its inspection in Pyeongchang on Friday.
South and North Korea have engaged in a flurry of sports diplomacy after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed his willingness to send a delegation to the Winter Games in his New Year’s address.
The two Koreas held three rounds of talks on the North’s participation this month after years of nuclear and missile provocations by North. The North will send 22 athletes to compete in three sports at the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games.