North and South Korea will bid jointly for the 2032 Olympics, they announced Wednesday, in an ambitious plan built on hopes of deepening a diplomatic thaw catalyzed by this year’s Winter Games in the South.
The idea, which would require an unprecedented level of cooperation and mutual trust on the long-divided Korean peninsula, was included in a joint statement issued after a Pyongyang summit between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in.
“The South and North agreed to actively participate jointly in international competitions including the 2020 Summer Olympics and to cooperate in bidding for the South-North joint hosting of the 2032 Summer Olympics,” the statement said.
No other details were given.
The North’s decision to participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February triggered a dramatic diplomatic turnaround on the peninsula this year.
It came after tensions mounted the previous year, with the North carrying out multiple missile launches and its most powerful nuclear test to date, and Kim trading personal insults and threats of war with US President Donald Trump.
The February games saw athletes from the two Koreas march together at the opening ceremony behind a unification flag showing an undivided peninsula.
The two countries also formed a unified women’s ice hockey side — a move initially controversial in the South, with critics saying that Seoul was depriving its own citizens of a chance to play on the Olympic stage.
Kim sent his sister Kim Yo Jong to Pyeongchang as his personal envoy, and the two leaders have since met three times as part of an ongoing diplomatic rapprochement.
The two Koreas have continued their sports diplomacy, forming joint teams for the ITTF world table tennis championships and several events at the Asian Games in Indonesia, securing one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals.
They have also held friendly basketball matches.
Olympics chief Thomas Bach said this month he was open to talks with the two Koreas about marching and competing together at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
It is a marked contrast to the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, which Pyongyang boycotted after it demanded co-hosting rights and negotiations fell apart over how to share the events.
North Korea’s participation in hosting the Games, which include thousands of athletes from around the world and an even larger number of spectators, would be a watershed event requiring a degree of openness and financial muscle now lacking in the isolated and impoverished country.
It would also force an extraordinary level of cooperation between two Cold War foes that have no formal avenues for regular contact and are still technically at war.
The first hint of a possible joint bid came last week when South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted the country’s sports minister Do Jong-hwan as saying Seoul planned to propose the idea during this week’s Pyongyang meeting.
For the 2030 FIFA World Cup, Do say South Korea planned to propose a co-hosted tournament involving China, Japan, and the two Koreas.
“In this way, we could maintain the current momentum for peace and expand peace on the Korean peninsula to the whole region”, Do said.