North Korean Taekwondo Team Returns Back Home After A Four-Show Tour In South Korea

Grace Woo, Feb. 15, 2018, 9:30 a.m.

More than two dozen North Korean taekwondo performers returned home Thursday following a rare show tour in South Korea organized to mark the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the authorities in Seoul said. The 28-member team crossed the border by land after relatively simple procedures at the customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) office in Paju, Gyeonggi Province.

Asked by pool reporters about their impression of their trip here, a female member just said, "Korea is one." Most of the other taekwondo practitioners kept mum, smiling slightly.

Three coaches and administrative officials are going back to the North via Beijing by air, the same transportation they used for a trip here, according to the Ministry of Unification.

The North Koreans arrived in the South on Feb. 7 and demonstrated their skills in four joint taekwondo performances with their South Korean counterparts -- the first shortly before the opening ceremony of the Olympics in PyeongChang, another in Gangwon province the following day and the other two in Seoul this week. Taekwondo is Korea's traditional martial art and is widely known across the world.

The North's media carried a detailed report on their performances in Seoul, which were watched by many local citizens including National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and other dignitaries.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the communist nation's official news agency, said the performers "mesmerized" the spectators.

Referring to North Korea by the abbreviation of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, it added, "Members of the DPRK taekwondo demonstration group conducted the team and quintet patterns with dynamic and orderly rhythms and knocked out their opponents with swift actions and strong strikes in self-defense art, winning the admiration of the spectators."

The joint taekwondo show of the two Koreas "fully displayed the wisdom and strong spirit of the Korean nation and development of taekwondo technique," it stressed.

With the return of the taekwondo team, the number of North Koreans staying in the South for the Olympics comes down to 302. They include athletes, cheerleaders and media representatives.

On Wednesday, the South Korean government approved the use of a special budget of 2.86 billion won (US$2.64 million) from inter-Korean cooperation funds to cover the costs of Olympic visits by North Koreans.

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