Olympic athletes from North and South Korea will join together as one delegation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, with the countries announcing Wednesday they will form one joint Olympic team for the first time and march together at the opening ceremony.
The surprising agreement comes after three days of negotiations between the countries as they tried to reach a consensus on how athletes from North Korea would be represented at the Olympics. Now the nations are seeking permission from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to compete together under the Korean Unification Flag, which is an outline of both nations.
The 2018 games will not be the first time the countries have marched under the Unification Flag. It was used by the countries in the 2000, 2004, and 2006 Olympic and Winter Olympic games during the opening ceremonies, with North and South Korea marching together — however, as diplomacy between the nations degraded, so too did the use of the Unification Flag. Both nations elected to march separately during the 2008 games in Beijing, with North Korea going so far as to reject a suggestion from China that the countries should remain separate, but march back to back in the opening ceremony.
This latest announcement is viewed not only as an agreement that impact sports, but perhaps an important step towards more productive diplomatic relations between the countries. It also marks the first time the countries will compete together under the Korea Unification Flag.
North and South Korea will meet with the IOC this weekend in Switzerland to lobby for their proposal to be accepted.