Bach says he's open to unified Koreas team for Pyeongchang

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) IOC President Thomas Bach said Friday that he is open to the possibility of a unified Korean team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February.

Speaking in Muju, 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Seoul, on the final day of the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships, Bach told a media conference that he would discuss the issue with South Korea President Moon Jae-in.

At the opening ceremony of the championships, Moon, currently in the United States to visit U.S. President Donald Trump, raised the possibility of the two countries participating together.

''We have noted with great appreciation the message of President Moon to see the Olympic games as a possibility for dialogue and reconciliation,'' said Bach, adding that Moon's comments reflected the Olympic spirit.

''What this could mean for the 2018 Winter Games and what could be done in respect, we'll discuss this Monday with President Moon once he's back from his state visit to the U.S.''

Bach, a former Olympic fencer, confirmed that regardless of any joint team, the IOC was ready to assist North Korea's involvement at Pyeongchang.

''The position of the IOC is very clear,'' he said. ''We have already invited the DPRK (North Korea) to participate in the Winter Games in 2018. We are supporting athletes in order to assist them to qualify for the Olympic games.''

Earlier this week, however, North Korea's sole member of the IOC, Chang Ung, was cautious when talking to South Korean media.

''It's only hypothetical, and many different departments at the IOC are involved,'' said Chang. ''We should stop this discussion. We should only talk about what's practically possible. I think it's going to be very difficult.''

While the two Koreas, technically still at war since an armistice brought hostilities to an end in 1953, have marched together at the opening ceremonies at various Olympic tournaments in the past, they have never sent a unified team to compete on that stage.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.