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IOC chief Thomas Bach and South Korean President Moon Jae-In will next week discuss the possibility of joint Korean teams competing at next year’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the German said on Friday.
Seoul’s new president who backs engagement with the nuclear-armed North made the suggestion at the World Taekwondo Federation championships in Muju last weekend.
In South Korea’s Pyeongchang next year, Moon said he would like to see again “the glory” of past events “where the South and the North achieved the best-ever results by fielding joint teams”.
He also suggested the two Koreas jointly participate in the Games’ opening ceremony, as they did at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
South Korean officials have repeatedly urged the North which boycotted the 1988 Seoul Olympics to take part in Pyeongchang, touting the idea of a “peace Olympics” on the divided peninsula, which remains technically at war without a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
But no North Korean athletes have so far qualified for Pyeongchang, raising the prospect that none will attend in any case.
In Muju, Bach said he appreciated “the message of President Moon to see the Olympic Games as a possibility for dialogue and reconciliation”.
He would discuss “what could be done in this respect” in talks with Moon on Monday, after the South Korean leader returned from a visit to the United States, he added.
But the North has already poured cold water on the idea of a unified team, with top sports official Chang Ung, the country’s sole IOC member, saying Thursday it could only happen “when political circumstances are quite favourable”.
Tensions are high on the Korean peninsula over the North’s nuclear and missile development.
But at the World Taekwondo Championships a delegation from the rival North Korean-led, Austrian-based International Taekwondo Federation performed a demonstration, and Taekwondo chief Choue Chung-won said Friday they had agreed a WT group would reciprocate at the ITF championships in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, in September.
Bach would not be drawn on the issue of wild cards to the Olympics for North Korean athletes, saying only that the IOC was supporting some athletes from the country in their attempts to qualify.
The last chance for North Koreans to qualify on merit is September’s Nebelhorn Trophy figure skating in Oberstdorf, Germany, where two pairs skaters will seek to do so.