A delegation of North Korean officials and ice hockey players crossed the heavily guarded border into South Korea on Thursday for joint Olympics training, as Pyongyang called for all Koreans to seek unification of the two nations.
The group included 12 North Korean players who will form a combined women’s ice hockey team with their southern counterparts at next month’s Winter Olympics in the South Korean mountain resort of Pyeongchang.
Stepping off a bus after driving through large gates on the border, the athletes ignored questions as they were mobbed by throngs of media.
They wore puffy winter jackets in the white, blue, and red colours of North Korea’s flag, with “DPR Korea” emblazoned on the back, referring to the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
After going through South Korean checkpoints at the border, the team traveled to a national training centre in Jincheon, 90 km (56 miles) south of Seoul.
Under an agreement worked out during the first official talks between the two Koreas in two years, the joint team will wear unity jerseys and march under a unified peninsula flag at the Games’ opening ceremony on February 9.
Earlier on Thursday, North Korea sent a rare announcement addressed to “all Koreans at home and abroad”, saying they should make a “breakthrough” for unification without the help of other countries, its state media said.
All Koreans should “promote contact, travel, cooperation between North and South Korea” while adding Pyongyang will “smash” all challenges against reunification of the Korean peninsula.
The announcement, issued after a joint meeting of government and political parties, added Koreans should try to ease military tensions and create a peaceful climate on the Korean peninsula.