North Korea (and Persumably Ryom & Kim) to Compete in PyeongChang After All
After negotiations with South Korea, North Korea will now send a delegation to the Olympic Games.
We are now within a month of the Olympics, and across the winter sporting world, countries and sports federations are settling on who’ll be competing. But for one country, the question since September hasn’t been who, but if. Last month, when they gave up the only Olympic berth they’d qualified, it looked like the answer for North Korea would be no.
But since then things have gone the other way. In his New Year’s speech, ruler Jung-On Kim expressed, among other sentiments, the willingness to send a delegation to the Games in South Korea. Shortly after that, the two Koreas opened up a special communications line to discuss various issues. Unfortunately, they haven’t managed to sort out the terrifying nuclear weapons issue, but at least they came to a accord on one smaller matter. Today they announced North Korea will send a delegation to the PyeongChang. So far they have only spoken of members of the delegation in general terms: athletes, officials, media, cheerleaders, and so on. But it’s hard to believe those athletes won’t include pairs skating team Tae Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim, since they were the athletes who properly qualified their spot in their event. One suspects there may be other athletes as well, though who they’ll be is harder to guess at.
Of course they gave their berth up, and it’s already been handed over to Japan. So they’ll need some help from officials on the International Olympic Committee and probably the International Skating Union to get back in. But it’s been clear the IOC wants North Korea in the Games. It’s good for the image of the Olympics to have them put the two Koreas put their conflict aside for it, plus it greatly decreases the chances of the event being bombed. There is a chance, perhaps, that there’ll be a combined Korean team, in which case Ryom & Kim will probably claim the special host berth in the pairs competition, and also participate in the team event. More likely they’ll have to receive a wild card in, which it’s hard to believe won’t be provided.
Not everyone is happy, of course. Senator Lindsay Graham is even saying the U.S. should boycott if North Korea’s in. The president of the U.S. Figure Skating was quick to speak against that idea. Thankfully for the moment, it doesn’t look like the U.S. government is inclined to do a boycott. Indeed, most of the people in the world with sense are glad that the danger to the Games is so decreased. It’ll be even more so if the North Korean delegation is indeed a large one.
And it’ll certainly be good to see young Ryom & Kim have their Olympic moment. Through their time training in Canada, and the way they conducted themselves at the Nebelhorn Trophy, and how they’ve suffered as pawns in this international power struggle, they’ve gained a lot of sympathy and liking from the international community. They’re talented skaters too, perhaps the best to ever come out of their country. The pairs event will be the better for having them in it.