2018 Winter Olympics: North Korea, South Korea to unite as one team, march together

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South Korea's Cho Myoung-Gyon, left, shakes hands with the head of the North Korean delegation, Ri Son-Gwon.  Getty Images

North Korea and South Korea are feeling the Olympic spirit. The two nations have agreed to form a joint Olympic team and march together in PyeongChang's opening ceremony and also compete jointly in women's ice hockey, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. 

It's some welcome news for an Olympics which has been overshadowed by the geopolitical tensions in the region. Much of the lead-up to the 2018 Winter Olympics has centered on potential problems in PyeongChang, from "stagnant" ticket sales and "very low" interest from traveling fans to Russia's controversial absence and a watered-down talent pool for hockey competition.

South Korea announced on Jan. 9 that neighboring North Korea decided it would send a delegation "of athletes, high-ranking officials and a cheer squad" to the 2018 Winter Games. That was according to Reuters and the Associated Press, which awaited word from North Korea's "first formal talks with South Korea in more than two years."

South Korea had initially been campaigning for its infamous peninsula partner to attend the Winter Olympics in an apparent effort to reconcile differences, or at least calm concerns regarding the North's international disputes over missile launches and nuclear weapons. At January's meetings between the two sovereign states, per Reuters' original report, "Seoul proposed inter-Korean military discussions to reduce tensions" and "said it was prepared to lift some sanctions temporarily to facilitate" North Korea's visit to PyeongChang.

As part of the talks, which CBS News said lasted more than three hours, South Korea also made the suggestion that athletes from both states march alongside each other at the opening ceremony. A unified march has not occurred with both North and South Korea since China's Asian Winter Games in 2007, Reuters' Josh Smith and Christine Kim noted, although it remains to be seen just what North Korea's planned participation means for the rest of the Olympics.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, for example, said earlier in January that he "fully" believes Team USA will skip the Winter Games if North Korea attends. The United States did, however, recently agree to pause joint military drills in South Korea in order to promote a "safe and successful" competition in February.

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