In a continued effort to maintain peace and improve relations between North and South Korea, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach has invited the leaders of both nations to Lausanne, Switzerland, for diplomatic talks on Olympic Day (June 20th).
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, alongside the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, are anticipated to attend the summit at the IOC headquarters. Bach also invited delegates from China and Japan, the hosts of the 2020 Summer Olympics and the 2022 Winter Olympics, respectively. In addition to the government officials, top athletes from each of the four countries will attend the meeting in Switzerland, where they will engage in a friendly game of table tennis.
In a press release, Bach is quoted stating that the upcoming summit represents “another step by Olympic sport to promote dialogue on and around the Korean peninsula,” and that sport “must continue to build bridges and show what it can do to bring people together.” Bach also cited the joint march of the two Koreas during the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games as evidence that the Olympic Movement can play a monumental role in creating peace.
Per the IOC press release:
“The athletes taking part in the exhibition tournament are:
- Chinese Olympic gold medallists from Rio 2016 Ms Ning Ding and Mr Long Ma;
- South Korean Olympic bronze medallist in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) Ms Kyungah Kim, and Olympic gold medallist in Athens and IOC Member Mr Seung Min Ryu;
- Japanese Olympic silver medallist in London (2012) Ms Ai Fukuhara, and the youngest-ever winner of an ITTF World Tour men’s singles title at only 14, Mr Tomokazu Harimoto;
- North Korean Olympic bronze medallist in Rio (2016) Ms Song I Kim, and elite athlete in the ITTF tour Mr Sin Hyok Pak.
The athletes will be accompanied by the NOC Presidents of their countries.”
There is historical precedent to the (exhibition) game of table tennis the four delegations will be playing that dates back to the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships which saw a unified team of players from both North and South Korea compete as one Korea, under the same flag used in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The unified women’s team of two North and two South Korean players won the gold medal in the Women’s Corbillion Cup, while the Korean mixed doubles team tied for bronze. Though the mixed doubles team consisted of two players from North Korea, they nonetheless represented a unified Korean Peninsula.
Earlier this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “fully committed” to the participation of North Korea in the 2020 Summer Olympics, 2022 Winter Olympics, and 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games, which will take place in October in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as well as the 2020 Youth Winter Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland. Reciprocally, the IOC has begun working on a “special program” to allow North Korean athletes to prepare and qualify for the upcoming editions of the Olympic Games.