North Korea to send 230 cheerleaders to Winter Olympics

The North Korean flag.
The North Korean flag. Photo credit: Reuters

North Korea will send around 230 people as a single cheering squad to the Winter Olympics in the South next month, South Korea's unification ministry says.

The announcement came after officials from the two Koreas held talks in the border village of Panmunjom on Wednesday.

The ministry said the two sides exchanged opinions on several issues, including the size of the North Korean team, joint cultural events and use of the Masikryong ski report in North Korea.

Pyongyang also offered to send a delegation to the Paralympics in Pyeongchang in March, South Korean media reported.

"The North informed the South of its broad plan to send a delegation to the Winter Games and the Paralympics," a ministry official said.

Koreas to march together at Olympics

The two Koreas will field a combined women's ice hockey team and march together under one flag at next month's Winter Olympics in the South, Seoul says.

The two Koreas will compete as a unified team in the Olympics for the first time, though they have joined forces at other international sports events before.

North Korea will send a delegation of more than 400, including 230 cheerleaders, 140 artists and 30 Taekwondo players for a demonstration.

Prior to the Games, the sides will carry out joint training for skiers at the North's Masik Pass resort and a cultural event at the Mount Kumgang resort, for which Seoul officials plan to visit the sites next week.

The delegation is expected to begin arriving in South Korea on January 25.

The North will separately send a 150-strong delegation to the Paralympics.

The South's Unification Ministry said the two sides exchanged opinions on several issues, including the size of the North Korean athletics team and joint cultural events.

Seoul has proposed a joint ice hockey team, which triggered an angry response from athletes in the South suddenly being told they may have to play alongside total strangers.

"I don't know if it will happen, but a joint team will be a good opportunity for ice hockey to shed its sorrow as a less-preferred sport as many Koreans will take interest," South Korean President Moon Jae-in told players during a visit to a training centre.

Paik Hak-soon, the director of the Centre for North Korean studies at Sejong Institute in South Korea, said North Korea was using the cheering squad to draw attention to its apparent cooperative spirit.

On Tuesday, officials from North and South agreed a 140-person North Korean orchestra would perform in South Korea during the Games.