Olympics: N. Korea 'wants to share 2018 Games'

SEOUL - North Korea would like to share some events in the 2018 Winter Olympics with South Korea, a senior North Korean sports official was quoted as saying on Wednesday, before later qualifying his remarks.

Jang Ung, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said it was "positive" for Asia to host only its third Winter Games, the South's Yonhap news agency reported from Tokyo.

Asked about the possibility of sharing some events with host town Pyeongchang, Jang replied: "I hope so."

"The political and military situations between the Koreas aren't good and they have to be improved," Jang was quoted as saying. "Otherwise, they could influence the Olympics."

The North Korean official was visiting the Japanese capital for the general assembly of the Olympic Council of Asia.

Later in the day he appeared to think again, saying it was premature to discuss co-hosting the 2018 Olympics or sharing some events.

"My point was that the current situation between South and North Korea must improve," Jang said. "It's not yet time to talk about co-hosting."

Pyeongchang, making its third bid for the Winter Olympics, secured the right to host the 2018 event in an IOC vote last week.

The South's ruling and opposition parties have agreed to try to have North and South Korea field a unified team and train players jointly.

But Sohn Hak-Kyu, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, went further Monday and said he would explore ways for them to co-host the event.

He said the Games should become "a turning point in the history of the divided Korean peninsula, as well as in global peace".

Athletes from the two nations marched together at the Summer Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.

But relations have worsened sharply in recent years and there was no joint march in Beijing in 2008 or at the Asian Games in China last year.

A Seoul presidential spokeswoman said sharing Olympic events with North Korea could not be considered. "That was not the bid we made...(the hosting right) was awarded to Pyeongchang," she said.

An opinion poll released Monday showed 57.5 per cent of South Koreans support a unified team while 30.5 per cent are opposed. But 73.3 per cent rejected the idea of co-hosting the event.

The Korea Times said any co-hosting plan was premature and would need IOC approval. It recalled attacks by the North apparently aimed at disrupting two previous international sports events.

In November 1987, the North's agents blew up a Korean Air plane in mid-air in an apparent attempt to dissuade people from attending the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

And a naval battle between the two sides broke out during the South's co-hosting with Japan of the football World Cup in 2002.