The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has invited the National Paralympic Committee (NPC) of North Korea to participate in its first Paralympic Winter Games and offered two bipartite slots to athletes to compete in Para Nordic skiing at PyeongChang 2018.

Should NPC North Korea participate in the Games then they will march together with athletes from NPC South Korea under a unified flag at the Paralympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony on 9 March.

The two North Korean athletes who have received bipartite slots from the IPC and World Para Nordic Skiing are Jonghyon Kim and Yuchol Ma. Both made their international debuts at January’s World Cup in Oberried, Germany, with funding from the Asian Paralympic Committee and the Agitos Foundation.

Bipartite invitations are granted on a discretionary basis by the IPC and the respective International Federation.

For a number of months now, the IPC has been working with the PyeongChang 2018 Organising Committee, the NPCs of South and North Korea and government officials to ensure North Korea’s participation in a first Paralympic Winter Games.  The country has competed previously at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games having sent one and two athletes respectively.

Last week, the IPC Governing Board endorsed a proposal for North and South Korea to march together during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.  IPC President Andrew Parsons is now optimistic that NPC North Korea will accept the IPC’s invite to participate in the Games.

Andrew Parsons said: “Now that we have offered two bipartite slots to North Korean athletes I am extremely hopeful that the country will compete at its first Paralympic Winter Games this March.

“We want as many countries as possible competing at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games and I think North Korea’s participation will send out a very strong message of bringing peace through sport.  For both countries to march together at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will be a very special and historic moment and the result of a fantastic team effort by many parties.

“Thanks to the support of the Agitos Foundation and the Asian Paralympic Committee, both Kim and Ma will arrive in PyeongChang with international competition experience under their belts having recently competed at a Nordic Skiing World Cup in Germany.

“Last October, I met South Korean President Moon Jae-in and felt his strong passion, enthusiasm and understanding for how the Paralympic Winter Games can bring society together. I am looking forward to a historic event in PyeongChang.”

Like all nations competing at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, the North Korean team will benefit from a travel grant provided by the Organising Committee.

The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games will take place between 9-18 March, bringing together around 650 athletes from 45 countries who will compete in 80 medal events in six sports.