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Sport an afterthought as Unified women's team takes the ice

12 February 2018

"In a sense, the Cold War symbolically ended with the Seoul Olympics", the New York Times this week quoted Lee O. Young, the creative director of the opening ceremony at Seoul, as saying in an interview.

All broke out in broad smiles.

Earlier, Moon had hosted Kim Yo Jong and other North Korean officials at the presidential mansion for what was described as a friendly lunch where she offered Moon an official invitation to visit Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang.

Analysts believe the Olympic diplomatic drive by the North - which put its ICBMs on show at a military parade in Pyongyang on Thursday - seeks to loosen the sanctions against it and undermine the alliance between Seoul and Washington.

The North Korean delegation then took the bullet train to Gangneung, the venue of all ice competitions, and attended a banquet hosted by the South's unification minister Cho Myong- gyon. They poured into the tiny Kwandong Hockey Center, a nondescript arena tucked beside a university, carrying signs that said "Peace Olympics" and wearing headbands topped with jiggling flags.

After the opening ceremony, the North Korean delegates moved to Seoul and spent the night at the Walkerhill hotel, a riverside facility named after late U.S. Army commander Walton Walker, who's considered a Korean War hero in the South. His office said he did not interact with the North Koreans. There was another handshake.

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A North Korean ship, which carried its art troupe to the South, will return home over the weekend without Seoul's fuel supply, Seoul officials said Friday.

But in their meeting Saturday, the South Korean president also asked North Korea to be amenable to talks with the United States, telling Kim Yo Jong that it was "urgent" for Pyongyang and Washington to start resolving their differences.

At the stadium Pence sat one row in front of the North Koreans, but even with Kim Jong Yo just behind him, he never even turned around to exchange pleasantries - Pence had "no interaction" with her, according to press reports. After the game Saturday, the team stood on the ice as Moon, Kim Yo Jong, IOC president Thomas Bach and other government officials perched on the bench for a short meeting.

Although Kim Yo Jong ranks diplomatically lower than Kim Yong Nam, as Kim Jong Un's sister she is considered more important in North Korea.

"The occasion today is watched closely by the world, and there's a lot of hope placed on the South and North", he said. "That's the team he's going to be cheering for all Olympics".

They met the unified Korea team and took group pictures with the players on the rink after the game.

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"The girls have been great, they fit in well with our team", said Marissa Brandt, who was adopted as an infant out of South Korea and whose sister plays on the USA team.

Almost 500 North Koreans have arrived in South Korea for the Olympics, which run until February 25.

Abe and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who will also join the opening event, agreed Wednesday in Tokyo to reaffirm with Moon their stance of maximizing pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

Athletes from North Korea and South Korea marching under the same flag in the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games was a significant symbolic moment for many.

Later, the North Korean cheerleaders responded by singing "We are one!", swaying from side to side in a perfectly choreographed display of unity and discipline.

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Sport an afterthought as Unified women's team takes the ice