2018 Winter Olympics kick off in South Korea

2018 Winter Olympics kick off in South Korea

Athletes from Koreas march under unified flag

By Zehra Ulucak

ANKARA (AA) – The Olympic Winter Games kicked off on Friday in PyeongChang, South Korea with an opening ceremony themed around peace.

Ninety-two nations will participate with 2,920 athletes in the largest Winter Olympics ever, South Korea’s official news agency Yonhap reported.

Athletes from the two Koreas marched into the arena under a unified flag, marking a historic moment at the Games.

Twenty-two North Korean athletes are attending the Games. The Koreas have formed a joint women’s hockey team for the first time, Yonhap reported.

The North Korean delegation also includes 24 coaches and 21 media representatives.

Earlier on Friday, Kim Yo-jong, sister of the North Korean leader, arrived at Incheon International Airport along with a delegation headed by the country’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, 90.

He shook hands with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook and posed for a picture, ahead of a reception prepared for the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Kim Yo-jong has become the first member of the ruling North Korean family to visit South Korea since 1950-53 Korean War.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also attended the ceremony.

According to Japan's Kyodo News Agency, Abe met South Korean President Moon Jae-in ahead of the ceremony.

"North Korea must recognize that the strong ties between Japan, the United States and South Korea will never waver," Kyodo quoted Abe as saying.

Abe also called on UN member states to maximize pressure on North Korea until it implements UN Security Council decisions fully, agrees to change its policy, and sits on the dialogue table.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met a group of North Korean defectors during the second day of his visit to South Korea, where he arrived on Thursday to attend the opening ceremony.

Pence was accompanied by father of late Otto Warmbier, a U.S. college student who was imprisoned in North Korea for attempted theft in 2016, and died soon after he returned to his country.

He urged Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions permanently and reaffirmed the joint stance of the U.S. and South Korea towards the North.

The Games will end on Feb. 25.

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