North Korea has not entered its athletes to compete in the Pyeongchang Olympics in February, but the International Olympic Committee remains open to helping them participate in the Games.
Figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik are the only North Korean athletes to have qualified so far, but the country’s National Olympic Committee did not meet an Oct. 30 deadline to accept the spot.
The International Skating Union said that quota spot was passed to the next country in line, which was Japan.
“In the hypothetical situation that PRK would subsequently ask for its quota confirmation, the ISU would refer such request to the IOC,” the ISU said.
The IOC could award the figure skaters, and any other North Korean athletes who qualify, an entry into the Games.
The IOC has encouraged North Korean participation for months. In addition to seeking the inclusion that is a core tenet in the Olympic movement, the participation of North Korean athletes would be a sign of peace and is expected to ease security concerns. North Korean athletes last competed at a Winter Games in 2010 in Vancouver, according to the Associated Press.
“We are still working to get North Korean athletes to participate – as you know two skaters are qualified but have missed the deadline,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “But we would of course be flexible if they expressed a desire to come.”
The Pyeongchang Olympics, which open on Feb. 9, will take place just 40 miles away from the DMZ.
They’ll happen amid escalating tensions between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump that has been fueled by rhetoric between the two leaders and North Korea’s continued missile tests throughout this year.
The IOC has consistently said it is in contact with governments and that there is no security threat to the Games.
In September, IOC President Thomas Bach said, “We are also keeping the door open for the athletes of (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). This is our political neutrality. The Games are open for all National Olympic Committees, so also this contact continues and we are following the North Korean athletes taking part in some qualifications events, and we have offered to the NOC of DPRK to support these athletes when needed.”