[PyeongChang 2018] N. Korean Paralympians, officials to leave PyeongChang before closing ceremony

By Yonhap
  • Published : Mar 14, 2018 - 12:04
  • Updated : Mar 14, 2018 - 14:22
PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province -- North Korean athletes and officials staying in South Korea for the Winter Paralympics will leave before the weekend's closing ceremony, officials said Wednesday, with representatives from Pyongyang's Paralympic committee returning home ahead of schedule.

North Korea sent a 20-member athletic delegation, including skiers Ma Yu-chol and Kim Jong-hyon, to the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics, which began last Friday and will wrap up Sunday. Joining them were four officials from Pyongyang's Paralympic committee, led by Kim Mun-chol, head of the central committee of the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled.

North Korean skier Ma Yu-chol (Yonhap)

In their final race, the cross-country skiing sprint on Wednesday, Ma placed 31st and Kim ranked 32nd among 36 athletes. Only the top 12 advanced to the next stage. The two athletes left Alpensia Biathlon Centre without speaking to reporters. They and the rest of the North's athletic delegation will depart PyeongChang on Thursday as scheduled.

Initially, Kim Mun-chol's four-member delegation was expected to attend Sunday's closing ceremony, according to Lee Myung-ho, president of Seoul's Korean Paralympic Committee.

But later Wednesday, unification ministry officials said all 24 North Korean athletes and officials will return home together on Thursday.

The North Koreans' early departure notwithstanding, Lee said the two Koreas will continue to cooperate with each other in sports for disabled athletes.

Ma and Kim were granted special entries to compete in their first Paralympics here this month. Last Sunday, they competed in the men's 15-kilometer cross-country sitting event, and placed 26th and 27th, respectively, among 29 athletes. (Yonhap)