22 January, 2018
North Korea is preparing to take part in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics although reaction in South Korea is mixed.
Hyon Song Wol heads North Korea's most popular all-woman musical group, Moranbong Band. She visited Seoul for two days starting on Sunday.
She is to supervise North Korea's artistic performances during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. She has taken part twice in negotiations in Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South. Hyon is part of a delegation dealing with details of the North's planned activities.
However, the North's move to take part in the Olympics has met with opposition from some lawmakers and the public.
At one point, more than 100 activists opposed to North Korea's participation met the North Korean delegation in the eastern city of Gangneung. They burned North Korean and unification flags and also a large picture of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Hyon has received intense attention from the media. The Associated Press reported that, several years ago, she was reported executed but reappeared on television the following year.
IOC approves North Korean athletes
On Saturday, the International Olympic Committee agreed to a deal permitting North Korean athletes to take part. Under the agreement, 22 North Koreans will compete in five sports. The sports include women's ice hockey, figure skating, short track speed skating, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing.
In addition, a demonstration Taekwondo team, a cheering group and hundreds of musical performers also will be involved.
The women's hockey team will compete as a unified team with members from North and South Korea. The move marks the first time athletes from both sides have competed on the same team in an Olympic event.
The two Koreas will march together in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics under one "unification flag."
However, the issue of the unified women's hockey team has caused notable debate in South Korea. News media reports say a public opinion study shows that a majority of South Koreans oppose the joint hockey team. Critics say it is unfair to South Korean players who will have to share time with those from the North.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in considers the North's participation in the games important to easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Moon has said, "We need wisdom and efforts to keep alive the chances for dialogue we've pulled off miraculously after the PyeongChang Olympics."
Moon, who was elected president last year, campaigned promising a greater effort to ease tensions between North and South.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signaled a willingness to improve relations during his New Year's speech. At the time, Kim said he would be willing to send a delegation to the Olympic Games being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Since early 2016, North Korea has faced increasingly tight trade restrictions after carrying out nuclear and missile tests banned by the United Nations Security Council.
Outside critics say Kim's offering of improved ties is a tactic to weaken U.S.-led international sanctions on the North. Some lawmakers in South Korea have also criticized the effort.
The opening ceremony for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olmpics takes place on February 9 with the Games continuing until February 25.
I'm Mario Ritter.
Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English from AP stories. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
participation –n. to take part in, to be involved in with others
dialogue –n. the process of discussing an issue of disagreement between two or more sides
miraculously –adv. taking place in a wonderful or amazing way
sanctions –n. measures usually involving trade restrictions that are meant to cause a country to obey international rules
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