North Korean Figure Skaters Hope to Qualify for Winter Olympics

Some view it as a diplomatic opportunity for the 2018 Winter games that will take place in South Korea

Tae Ok Ryom and Ju Sik Kim of North Korea Perform During the Pairs Free Skating of the Isu Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Taipei Taiwan on February 20, 2016. Credit: Ritchie B. Tongo/REX

Two North Korean figure skaters are hoping to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympic games, and, in doing so, bring a sense of peace and security to the upcoming games to take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea beginning February 9th, 2018. 

Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik are hoping to become the first North Korean athletes in the 2018 Winter Olympics, which are being held just 40 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.  

Their participation not only is of interest to the two athletes who have been practicing in Montreal, but to the constantly tense situation involving North Korea's nuclear capabilities, according to a report in the New York Times.

South Korea has been promoting these Olympics as the Games of Peace, and having North Korean athletes could be a symbol of diplomacy. There's also the belief that having North Korean athletes participating will make the games safer, according to the Times. There are concerns of low attendance both by fans and potentially athletes themselves. 

Chang Ung, an I.O.C. delegate from North Korea, told the Olympic committee's online television channel in mid-September: "I am quite sure that politics is one thing and Olympics is another thing. So I don't see any big problem for the Pyeongchang Olympics."

The two figure skaters are participating in a qualifying event in Germany this week. Should no North Korean athletes qualify, there's the potential for the Olympic committee to issue wild card entries to North Korean athletes, as the Times notes.

The two skaters perform their routine accompanied by the Beatles song, "A Day in the Life," as performed by Jeff Beck, and they reportedly ended an interview at the world championships when asked how they'd chosen the music. These skaters are less focused on the politics of their participation, and rather just hoping to get a chance to compete.