North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

ROK-DPRK 2018 Winter Olympic Trial Balloon

Chang Ung (L), DPRK member on International Olympic Committee (Photo: Yonhap)

Jang Ung (Chang Ung), the DPRK’s representative on the International Olympic Committee, expressed interest in the country hosting some events as part of 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Kangwo’n Province.  Jang later revised his comments, a reaction to a proposal by ROK elected official Sohn Hak-kyu.  Yonhap reports:

North Korea would like to co-host the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in the South Korean alpine town of PyeongChang, a senior North Korean sports official said Wednesday.

Jang Ung, a North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said it was a “positive” for Asia to host its third Winter Games. When asked about the possibility of sharing some events with PyeongChang, Jang replied, “I hope so.”

“The political and military situations between the Koreas aren’t good, and they have to be improved,” Jang said. “Otherwise, they could influence the Olympics.”

Jang arrived in Tokyo to attend the general assembly of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

Jang, however, backtracked on his words later in the day. He said it was “premature” to discuss whether the Koreas should co-host the Olympics or should at least split some events across the border.

“My point was that the current situations between South and North Korea must improve,” Jang explained. “It’s not yet time to talk about co-hosting.”

PyeongChang beat Munich of Germany and Annecy of France last week to win the bid for the 2018 Games. Rep. Sohn Hak-kyu, head of South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party, said earlier this week that he will explore ways for the two Koreas to co-host the Games.

The two Koreas remain technically at war with each other because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. They have fielded joint teams in football and in table tennis in international events, but never at an Olympics or an Asian Games. They have marched in together for opening ceremonies, most recently at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Jang was one of several DPRK officials visiting Tokyo for the Olympic Council of Asia meeting, which will be held Thursday (14 July).  Hankyoreh reports:

Three North Korean officials entered Japan Tuesday following the Japanese government’s issuance Monday of visas for five officials hoping to attend a general meeting of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) in Tokyo on Thursday. This marks the first time the Japanese government had admitted North Koreans since October 2006 measures barring their entry.

According to Japanese press reports Tuesday, three officials, including North Korean Olympic Committee vice chairman and vice minister of culture and sports, Son Kwang-ho, arrived at Japan’s Narita Airport via Beijing on Monday night. Two others, including International Olympic Committee member Chang Ung, are scheduled to arrive in Japan on Wednesday from Vienna, Austria.

This is the first Japan visit by North Korean officials since Japan barred the entry of people of North Korean nationality on Oct. 13, 2006, as an independent punishment North Korea’s nuclear test. Four years and nine months have passed since the measures were taken.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Deputy Foreign Minister Yutaka Banno explained the reasoning behind permitting Chang and the other four officials’ entry by saying, “Refusing participation of a particular national council is in conflict with the Olympic Council of Asia charter and could be taken as international sanctions.”

The visas issued to the officials by Japan’s Foreign Ministry are valid through Friday. Observers are taking this to mean that they were issued solely for the purpose of attendance at the OCA meeting Thursday.

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