NK Olympic skaters begin training
GANGNEUNG, South Korea — North Korean skaters attending this month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea began their training Friday, and one was injured during his first practice. A giant North Korean flag hanging from a North Korean apartment in the athletes’ village also captured the media spotlight.
Short-track speed skater Choe Un Song fell and slid into a padded wall during his practice at the Gangneung Ice Arena with his teammate Jong Kwang Bom. Players from Italy and France skated with the North Koreans, but there was little interaction between them.
The 25-year-old was taken to a nearby hospital, and officials later said he was released after a laceration on his ankle was treated. Jong and a North Korean coach didn’t respond to questions from journalists as they left the venue.
A pair of North Korean figure skaters also practiced at the arena earlier Friday.
They are among 10 North Korean athletes who arrived Thursday evening in the second and final group of a total of 22 athletes from North Korea who will attend the Winter Games. The other 12 athletes, all female hockey players, came to South Korea last week to practice with South Korean teammates with whom they have formed the first-ever joint Korean team in the Olympics.
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The Koreas are in a rare Olympics-inspired reconciliation mood after a year of heightened animosities over North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile programs. They agreed to march together in the Feb. 9 opening ceremony and on North Korea sending a 230-member cheering group and a 140-person art troupe to the South during the games.
On Thursday, a massive North Korean flag hung across three floors of the North Korean delegation’s apartments at the Gangneung athletes’ village. Many other national flags were also displayed on the balconies of their athletes’ rooms, but South Korean media reported that the North’s flag was the largest.
Displaying a North Korean national flag in a public place is normally prohibited in South Korea under its strict anti-North Korean security law. But South Korea allows exceptions when it hosts international events that draw North Korean delegations.
Last month, anti-North activists burned a North Korean flag along with a large photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as the head of a popular North Korean girl band passed them during a pre-Olympics visit to South Korea.
Near the Gangneung athletes’ village, Cho Kyung Soon, a 44-year-old real estate agent, said she found no problem with the giant North Korean flag, which she can see from her office. “I don’t think they can gain a big propaganda achievement by putting up one national flag. … I think they may want to get on the good side of Kim Jong Un,” she said.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul contributed to this report.
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