North Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympics

North Korea at the
2018 Winter Olympics
Flag of North Korea.svg
IOC code PRK
NOC Olympic Committee of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
in Pyeongchang, South Korea
February 9–25, 2018
Competitors 22 in 5 sports
Winter Olympics appearances (overview)

North Korea will compete in 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Two figure skaters, Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, were qualified for the Games, but the Olympic Committee of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) failed to enter them by the 30 October deadline. On 9 January 2018, North Korea agreed in negotiations with South Korea to send the qualified athletes and a delegation for the Winter Olympics.[1]

In January 2018, following inter-governmental talks, the teams representing North Korea and South Korea will enter the Opening Ceremony marching under the Korean Unification Flag, while in women's ice hockey there will be a single united Korean squad.[2]


The following is the list of number of competitors participating in the North Korean delegation per sport.

Sport Men Women Total
Alpine skiing 2 1 3
Cross-country skiing 2 1 3
Figure skating 1 1 2
Ice hockey 0 12 12
Short track speed skating 2 0 2
Total 7 15 22


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) wanted to have North Korean sportspersons at the Games. In order to increase their chances of qualification, the IOC offered to support them with equipment, accommodation, and travel to qualification events.[4]

North Korean short track speed skaters and cross-country skiers did not qualify for the Games.[5] A wild card arrangement was considered for the eventuality that no North Korean athlete would have qualified.[6]

The host nation South Korea had proposed a unified team of the two Koreas at the Games. The team would participate at least in the women's ice hockey event and possibly more disciplines.[7][8] North Korea refused this in June 2017 on the grounds of time constraints.[9][8]

Similarly, South Korea had suggested that North Korea could co-host some of the skiing events at the Masikryong Ski Resort. This suggestion came after Moon Jae-in was elected President of South Korea in 2017. Earlier in December 2014, the organizers had denied the possibility of sharing any part of their bid with the North.[7] Like the unified team proposal, the new co-hosting proposal was refused by the North.[8] North Korea, however, supported South Korea's Olympic bid for the 2018 games.[9] This was unlike in 1988, when North Korea was willing to co-host the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, but once those plans failed, it ended up boycotting the Games and bombing Korean Air Flight 858 in what is believed to be an attempt to sabotage the Games.[10]


Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik in 2017

Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik were qualified to the Games on 29 September 2017 at the 2017 CS Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany.[4] Their successful free skating program was to the tune of "Je ne suis qu'une chanson" by Ginette Reno and their short program on the day before was to the music of The Beatles.[11][4] They took one of the five available qualification spots for pair skaters at the event,[4] as they were expected beforehand.[12]

The qualification was seen as a positive development, since it could alleviate fears of the escalation of the 2017–18 North Korea crisis that might have otherwise jeopardized the Games.[4]

The International Skating Union confirmed Ryom and Kim's qualification, but the Olympic Committee of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) had to approve their participation,[4] which Chang Ung, a North Korean member of the IOC, said he found likely.[13] "I am quite sure that politics is one thing and Olympics is another thing. So I don't see any big problem for the Pyeongchang Olympics", he has said.[6] Despite this, the national Olympic committee failed to accept the two athletes by the deadline of 30 October.[14]

Failure to enter athletes[]

Because the North Korean national Olympic committee failed to enter the only qualified athletes to the Games, its participation remained uncertain.[14] The North Korean spot went to the runners up, Sumire Suto and Francis Boudreau-Audet representing Japan.[15] They needed to accept the spot by 21 December, which did not happen.[5] North Korea could still request its quota to be confirmed, in which case the IOC would deliberate on the matter. "[W]e would of course be flexible if they expressed a desire to come", an IOC spokesperson has said.[14] A wild card option remains on the table.[5]

Organizers of the games did not expect the final decision on participation to be made until the very last opportunity,[16] and Moon Jae-in had given North Korea the chance to decide on participation at any time before the Games begin.[4]

High-level talks[]

The impasse was broken off when North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un signaled the possibility to send athletes to the Games after all in his New Year's speech for 2018, saying "North Korea's participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to showcase the national pride and we wish the Games will be a success. Officials from the two Koreas may urgently meet to discuss the possibility".[17] The announcement was followed by South Korean agreement to participate in the first high-level talks with the North since December 2015. The talks were scheduled for 9 January 2018.[18] North Korea is also prepared to talk to the IOC that week.[19] In preparation for the North–South talks, the two countries restored the Seoul–Pyongyang hotline, which had been inactive for almost two years,[20] and exchanged related documents via fax.[18] After these developments, North Korea's IOC member Chang Ung said that the participation of North Korean figure skaters again looked likely.[21] The possibility of North Korean participation has stirred up talk about a possible Olympic boycott by the United States, after the administration of President Donald Trump, who has been at loggerheads with Kim Jong-un, has issued mixed messages.[22] After discussions on 9 January 2018, North Korea announced they will be sending athletes to compete along with a delegation to attend the Winter Olympics.[1]

Political tensions[]

Amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula in 2017, North Korean participation in the Games attracted "geopolitical urgency". Olympic officials, South Korean politicians, and international athletes widely think that the Games will be safer if North Korea participates.[6]

As a gesture of peace, South Korea will allow North Korean athletes to exceptionally pass through the Korean Demilitarized Zone by road, normally cut off from all traffic. Supporters will be allowed to travel by ship.[23]

Alpine skiing[]

Cross-country skiing[]

Figure skating[]

Athlete Event SP FS Total
Points Rank Points Rank Points Rank
Ryom Tae-ok
Kim Ju-sik

Ice hockey – Women's tournament[]

Short track speed skating[]


Athlete Event Heat Semifinal Final
Time Rank Time Rank Time Rank
Choe Un-song 500 m
Jong Kwang-bom 1500 m

See also[]


  1. ^ a b Sang-Hun, Choe (8 January 2018). "North Korea to Send Athletes to Olympics in South Korea Breakthrough". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2018. 
  2. ^ Sang-hun, Choe (17 January 2018). "North and South Korean Teams to March as One at Olympics". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2018. 
  3. ^ "N. Korea to send 22 athletes in three sports to PyeongChang Winter Olympics: IOC". Yonhap. 18 January 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2018. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Figure skating: North Korea pair qualify for Pyeongchang 2018". Reuters. 29 September 2017. Retrieved 30 September 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c Lee Song-heung (1 December 2017). "N.Korean Skaters Forfeit Tickets to Pyeongchang Olympics". The Chosun Ilbo. Retrieved 16 December 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c Longman, Jeré (27 September 2017). "North Korea Skaters Seek Olympic Bid, and Diplomats Cheer". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 September 2017. 
  7. ^ a b "N. Korean IOC member keeps mum on Olympic co-hosting with S. Korea". Yonhap News Agency. 23 June 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c "N Korea refuses South's Olympic offer". BBC News. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Payne, Marissa (30 September 2017). "PyeongChang Olympic organizers happy to see first North Koreans qualify for 2018 Games". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 October 2017. 
  10. ^ Longman, Jeré (23 May 2017). "With the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, Will the North Be Participant or Provocateur?". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 October 2017. 
  11. ^ "N. Korean skating pair earns Pyeongchang spot". The Japan News. The Yomiuri Shimbun. Agence France-Presse. 30 September 2017. Retrieved 30 September 2017. 
  12. ^ Zaccardi, Nick (26 September 2017). "North Korea can qualify for Olympics this week". OlympicTalk. NBC Sports. Retrieved 30 September 2017. 
  13. ^ "S. Korea welcomes 'special' Olympic skaters from North". New Straits Times. Agence France-Presse. 30 September 2017. Retrieved 30 September 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c Axon, Rachel (10 December 2017). "IOC encourages North Koreans to compete in Pyeongchang, but it's unclear if they will". USA Today. Retrieved 16 December 2017. 
  15. ^ "Figure skating: Japan to contest Olympic pairs after N. Korea misses deadline". Kyodo News. 13 December 2017. Retrieved 16 December 2017. 
  16. ^ Moon, Angela (14 November 2017). "North Korea decision on Olympics participation seen as last minute: South Korea official". Reuters. Retrieved 13 December 2017. 
  17. ^ Heekyong Yang; Smith, Josh (1 January 2018). "North Korea's Kim 'open to dialogue' with South Korea, will only use nukes if threatened". Reuters. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  18. ^ a b "North Korea accepts Olympics talks offer". BBC News. 5 January 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  19. ^ "North Korea will meet with South Korea for talks next week in small breakthrough". Chicago Tribune. AP. 5 January 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  20. ^ Kim, Hyung-Jin (3 January 2018). "North Korea reopens cross-border communication channel with South Korea". Chicago Tribune. AP. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  21. ^ "Reports: North Korea likely to be at Olympics". ESPN. AP. 6 January 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2018. 
  22. ^ Longman, Jeré (3 January 2018). "U.S. Skating Officials Brush Aside Talk of Boycotting Olympics". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 January 2018. 
  23. ^ Cutler, Teddy (5 September 2017). "North Korean Athletes Allowed to Cross Demilitarized Zone to South Korea Winter Olympics in Peace Gesture". Newsweek. Retrieved 30 September 2017.