Photographer: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

South Korea's Moon Calls on North Korea to Join Winter Olympics

  • President says participation could help open a path to peace
  • Venues for Pyeongchang Games lie about 60 miles from border

South Korea President Moon Jae-in urged North Korea to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, saying the participation of athletes from across the border could help open a path to peace.

“A single step that North Korea takes towards Pyeongchang will be a great advance towards peace that it could never gain through hundreds of missiles,” Moon said in a speech at an event hosted by the presidential National Unification Advisory Council. North Korea’s provocations are the greatest threat to the peninsula, he said, adding that “our destination is clearly peace and prosperity.”

Two North Korean figure skaters last month became the first athletes from the isolated nation to qualify for the games, which begin on Feb. 9. Concerns over North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests have hurt ticket sales, with many venues lying about 90 kilometers (60 miles) from the heavily fortified border.

In July, Moon said he would seek cooperation from Chinese President Xi Jinping to urge North Korea to participate in the Olympics. The two nations agreed Tuesday to move beyond a year-long dispute over Seoul’s decision to deploy a U.S. missile shield, paving the way for closer ties between two of Asia’s biggest economies.

Tensions over the missile shield had prompted Beijing to retaliate economically, suspending sales of package tours and hindering the operations of South Korean companies. South Korean tour operators are hopeful that China will soon lift the tourism ban, according to Jeon Hyo-sik, an executive director at Korea Tourism Organization in Wonju.

“It typically takes a month or two for tourism agencies to gather tourists after such curbs are lifted, and winter is a low season for tourism in Korea,” Jeon said on Tuesday. “We hope Chinese tourism can recover before the Pyeongchang Olympics in February.”

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