July 13 - Plans for Pyeongchang to host some events in North Korea when they stage the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics have been backed by Chang Ung, the country's International Olympic Committee member, who arrived here today.
Chang, who is in the Japanese capital attending the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) General Assembly, which is due to begin tomorrow, reacted positively to a suggestion from South Korean opposition leader Sohn Hak-kyu that he will "seriously" consider hosting the Games with North Korea if he is elected as the next President.
"Having the Winter Olympics in Asia is a good thing," said Chang, a 73-year-old who has been a member of the IOC since 1996.
"I want it to be like that [co-hosting the Games]."
Chang warned that if relations did not improve between South and North Korea in the build-up to Pyeongchang 2018 then it could overshadow the Games.
"The political and military status between South and North is not good, and that must be improved," said Chang, who is part of a three-person delegation from North Korea attending the OCA meeting.
"If it is not, it could also have an effect on the Olympics."
Sohn (pictured fourth right), the chairman of the Democratic Party, unveiled his co-hosting plan during a meeting of senior party leaders held in Pyeongchang where early preparations began for the Presidential election in 2013.
"We intend to seriously consider the possibility of both South and North Korea holding the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics," he told them.
Pyeongchang is located in Gangwon Province, which, before the division of Korea in 1945, formed a single province with a single province with Kangwon, which is now part of North Korea.
Pyeongchang itself is located only 50 miles from the North Korean border and several thousand war refugees from the North settled in the region following the division.
Lee Myung-bak, the current President of South Korea who was part of the Pyeongchang delegation that presented to the IOC Session in Durban where they were awarded the Olympics and Paralympics last year, has adopted a harsh policy towards its neighbours and relations are at their lowest for several years.
But officials involved in South Korea's unsuccessful bid last year to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup had planned to host some matches in the North.
"The Pyeongchang Olympics should be the Olympics of peace and reunification," said Sohn.
"Let us dream of a historical turning point in our history of national division."
The radical proposal, however, is unlikely to be approved by the IOC as, under the Olympic Charter, it clearly states that events should be held in the vicinity of the host city or, if circumstances deman, in a number of places in a single country.
"The International Olympic Committee has not been informed about any plans which would involve North Korea during the 2018 Olympic Winter Games," a spokeswoman told insidethegames.
Relations between North Korea and the rest of Asia remain a highly sensitive topic, something illustrated by the fact that Chang and his colleagues needed special permission from the Japanese Government to be allowed to attend this event.
North Korean citizens have been banned from visiting Japan since October 2006 after the Government imposed a blanket ban in protest at Pyongyang's nuclear weapons testing programme.
But Chang and Son Kwang Ho, North Korea's Vice-Minister of Physical Culture and Sports and vice-president of the North Korean Olympic Committee, along with another colleague have been granted special visas which are limited to attendance at the OCA meeting taking place in the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
July 2011: Epic celebrations take place in Pyeongchang after city secures Olympics
July 2011: Pyeongchang awarded 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics
July 2011: "Patience and perseverance deserve to be rewarded" claim Pyeongchang 2018
July 2011: "Pyeongchang bid is not just for Korea" claims President Lee
July 2011:·Korean President rallies Pyeongchang 2018 by urging them to "move heaven"