North Korea to send inspection team to PyeongChang ahead of games

Image: Hyon Song Wol
In this photo provided by South Korea Unification Ministry, North Korean Hyon Song Wol, second from right, head of a North Korean art troupe, talks with South Korean officials at Gangneung Art Center in Gangneung, South Korea on Jan. 21, 2018.South Korea Unification Ministry / via AP

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By Tim Stelloh

North Korea is sending a survey team to PyeongChang this week to inspect Olympic facilities ahead of next month’s games — the first to feature athletes from the South and North on a unified Olympic team, officials said Sunday.

In a briefing, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said the eight-member team will be headed by Yoon Yong Bok, a Sports Ministry official, and will also include athletes, media and cheerleaders.

The two-day visit is scheduled for Jan. 25 to the 27, the ministry said, with the team inspecting accommodations, stadiums, the press center and other venues.

North Korean athletes will compete in women’s ice hockey, figure skating, short distance track, cross-country and alpine skiing, South Korea’s Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Do Jong Whan, added in a briefing.

He said that North Korea was trimming the number of ice hockey players to make room athletes from the South.

"It is significant that the South and the North will realize [a] Peace Olympics rather than stand at military confrontation,” Do said.

The North is sending a 550-member delegation to the games that also includes cheerleaders, artists and Taekwando players. The effort comes at a time of increasing tension between the United States and the North, as it repeatedly tested ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

The countries have marched before in the Olympics, and they’ve competed together in sports events — but never in the Olympics. When Seoul hosted the summer games in 1988, the North boycotted.

Associated Press contributed.