LAUSANNE, Switzerland — A Korean unity deal for the Pyeongchang Olympics will see 22 North Korean athletes cross the border with South Korea to compete and march together under a unification flag at the opening ceremony.
A total of 12 North Korean women’s hockey players will join their South Korea neighbors in a united roster playing in special uniforms with a Korean song as their anthem.
North Koreans will also compete in figure skating, short track speed skating, Alpine skiing and cross-country skiing after being given exceptional late entries by the International Olympic Committee on Saturday.
The North Korean delegation will also include 24 coaches and officials, plus 21 media representatives at the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games.
The governments of North and South Korea were offered “sincere thanks” by IOC President Thomas Bach announcing the agreement.
An Olympic deal became possible after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said three weeks ago that a team could cross the border to compete.
“Such an agreement would have seemed impossible only a few weeks ago,” said Bach, who did not take questions from international media.
Bach was flanked by Olympic and government officials from both countries at a brief news conference at the Olympic Museum after a 2 1/2-hour meeting at IOC offices nearby.
The most symbolic sporting aspect of the deal is a women’s hockey team — the first time that the two Koreas will have joined together in Olympic events. They will play under the acronym “COR” and hear the song “Arirang” as a pre-game anthem. The roster will include 12 players from the north and 23 from the south. However, to maintain fairness for opponents, only 22 can suit up for each game. At least three must be North Korean, the IOC said.
North Korea will also send: two figure skaters to compete in the pairs competition; two male speed skaters; two men and one women in cross-country skiing distance events; two men and one woman in Alpine skiing’s slalom and giant slalom races.
The deal confirmed Saturday built on a breakthrough agreement reached Wednesday at the Korean neighbors’ shared border.
“The Olympic Games show us what the world could look like, if we were all guided by the Olympic spirit of respect and understanding,” Bach said.