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North Korea to send 22 athletes to Pyeongchang

North Korea to send 22 athletes to Pyeongchang

North Korean logistics officials arrived in South Korea on Sunday after a previous cancellation briefly cast doubts on the North's participation in next month's Winter Olympics.

But the musicians and other performers being sent by Pyongyang, like any North Korean artist allowed to appear overseas, will have been well-trained in propagandizing for the country's authoritarian regime.

However, the decision to field a unified ice hockey team has sparked a sharp backlash in the South, including from younger South Koreans upset that an unchastened North Korea is taking the spotlight.

In a diplomatic breakthrough after a year of escalating tension over the North's nuclear and missile programmes, the International Olympic Committee announced yesterday that North Korea will send 22 athletes to the Winter Games and compete in three sports and five disciplines.

Bach said all parties, including the Pyeongchang organizing committee, held a full day of preparation meetings Friday.

The roster will include 12 players from the north and 23 from the south.

But its presence in Pyeongchang - just 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the demilitarised zone that divides the Koreas – is a significant diplomatic coup, especially after months that saw nuclear and missile tensions surge to new heights.

Head of North Korean delegation Kwon Hyok Bong, center, and Hyon Song Wol, the head of the Moranbong Band, left. "Since 2014, the IOC has addressed the special situation of having the Olympic Winter Games 2018 on the Korean Peninsula".

"Such an agreement would have seemed impossible only a few weeks ago", he added.

Jennifer Jones right and Kaitlyn Lawes left as they sit and watch their opponent during the women's curling semifinal game against Britain at the 2014 Winter Olympics in S

IOC Thomas Bach said Saturday that North and South Korean teams will march together at the opening ceremony under a Korean unification flag. However, to maintain fairness for opponents, only 22 can suit up for each game.

In the interests of fairness, only 22 players will be entitled to play in each match, in line with the other teams, it said. At least three must be North Korean, the International Olympic Committee said.

Figure skating - skating pair Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik have been given a place, despite missing the original registration deadline.

Cross-country skiing: two male athletes - Han Chun-Gyong and Pak Il-Chol - will compete in the 15km freestyle, while one female athlete Ri Yong-Gum has a place in the 10km freestyle. The Koreas previously marched together at the Opening Ceremonies in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

But the South Korean Unification Ministry announced an unprecedented range of joint activities between the countries for the Games following talks Wednesday at the Demilitarized Zone.

The meeting was dedicated to North Korea's participation in the Winter Games.

A delegation of 150 North Korean athletes and supporters will attend the Paralympics, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the world should not be naive about North Korea's "charm offensive" over the Olympics.