SEOUL (AA) – Twelve North Korean ice hockey players were allowed to cross into South Korea Thursday, just two weeks ahead of the Winter Olympics.
The two sides recently agreed during break through talks to form a unified women’s hockey team at PyeongChang 2018 in the South. It will be the first time for the Koreas to compete together at an Olympic event.
Twenty two North Koreans in total are set to take part in the Winter Games following three rounds of inter-Korean dialogue and a separate meeting with the International Olympic Committee last weekend.
The North will also hold performances in the South and the neighbors will be joined at the opening ceremony behind a flag symbolizing the divided peninsula’s unification.
Seoul and Pyongyang’s recent reconciliatory mood has not gone down well with everyone in South Korea, however, as conservative critics claim North Korea has effectively hijacked the Olympics for its own purposes. The North may be aiming to distract as the reclusive state continues to develop nuclear weapons despite crippling sanctions.
Moreover, Seoul has been accused of failing to respect the South Korean women’s hockey team by not consulting with them fully before forming a unified squad.
President Moon Jae-in’s popularity appears to have taken a hit as a result. According to Realmeter Thursday, his approval rating dropped 6.2 percent over the last week to 59.8 percent – the lowest level since Moon took office in May.