North Korea will not go to Olympics, citing risks of coronavirus infections

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People watch a television screen showing a news report about North Korea’s decision not to participate in the Tokyo Olympics due to the Covid-19 pandemic, at a railway station in Seoul on Tuesday. AFP

North Korea will not attend the forthcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, Pyongyang’s sports ministry said, citing the risks of coronavirus infection.

At a meeting the North’s Olympic Committee “decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games in order to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by Covid-19”, the North’s sports ministry’s news service said.

The isolated, nuclear-armed North’s participation in the last Winter Games, in Pyeongchang in South Korea, was a key catalyst in the diplomatic rapprochement of 2018.

Leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong attended as his envoy, in a blaze of publicity, and the South’s President Moon Jae-in seized the opportunity to broker talks between Pyongyang and Washington that led to a series of high-profile meetings between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

Pyongyang’s announcement puts an end to Seoul’s hopes of using the postponed Tokyo Games to trigger a reset in the deadlocked talks process.

The announcement – dated April 5 – was carried by the Sports in the DPR Korea website run by the ministry and reported a meeting of the national Olympic committee on March 25.

The North’s official KCNA news agency had previously reported the committee meeting, without mentioning the Olympic decision.