Kang Kyung-wha said during a parliamentary audit in Seoul that North Korea sent a letter to the International Paralympic Committee to show its intention to compete at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games.
South Korean organizers and the government are hoping for North Korea's Olympic and Paralympic participation next year regardless of the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula sparked by Pyongyang's nuclear test and missile provocations.
|South Korea`s foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks during a parliamentary audit on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 12, 2017. (Yonhap)|
An official with the IPC, however, told Yonhap News Agency that it's still uncertain whether North Korea will actually compete south of the border, adding that the communist state hasn't made further moves to visit PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, after sending the message. According to the IPC official, who asked for anonymity, North Korea's Paralympic committee sent the document via e-mail on May 9.
To take part in the Paralympic Games, athletes need to earn quotas for the quadrennial event by collecting good results in international competitions or receiving wild card slots by the IPC.
Since North Korea is a relatively undeveloped country in disabled sports, its realistic scenario for participation will be earning wild cards from the IPC.
For wild card consideration, North Korean athletes first need to be registered in the IPC database, and then wait to be classified based on their physical abilities. However, North Korea has yet to register any of its athletes in the IPC database.
South Korean officials and the IPC are expected to discuss the North Korean participation issue next week. The new IPC leader Andrew Parsons is scheduled to visit PyeongChang on Monday for the IPC Project Review meeting to examine local organizers' preparedness for the Paralympics.
North Korea has never performed at the Winter Paralympics, though it did take part in two Summer Paralympics. North Korea made its Paralympic debut in 2012 by sending one athlete to London, and was represented by two athletes at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Paralympics. (Yonhap)