North Korea’s main Asiad delegation arrives in South Korea

September 16, 2014

North Korea chose not to send their famous cheerleaders, but South Koreans were excited about a different kind of ‘Army of beauties’ upon their arrival, as North Korean female athletes dominated the sports headlines on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

By Kim Han-joo

INCHEON (Yonhap) — The main North Korean delegation to the Asian Games, composed of 87 athletes and officials, arrived in South Korea by plane Tuesday.

The main group that took a rare direct flight across a sensitive inter-Korean maritime border was led by Kim Yong-hun, head of the North’s Olympic Committee, and Son Kwang-ho, vice chairman of the same body.

An Air Koryo plane carrying the group landed at Incheon International Airport, Seoul’s main gateway, at 7:22 p.m. after flying from the North’s capital, Pyongyang.

The athletes and officials, in white jackets and blue bottoms, waived and smiled at members of the South-North Korean Joint Cheering Team.

The joint cheering squad held placards reading “Welcome North Korean athletes!” and “We are one” and flags showing images of the unified Korean peninsula.

They also chanted slogans such as “Welcome” and sang the North’s signature song titled “Nice to Meet You.”

The delegation, escorted by South Korean police, left for the Asiad athletes’ village without commenting.

The North’s first batch of 94 athletes and officials arrived here last Thursday.

North Korea’s 273-member delegation, which includes 150 athletes, will compete in 14 sports in the 17th Asian Games that kicks off in South Korea’s western port city of Incheon on Friday for a 16-day run.

Incheon officials have said 33 more will arrive on Friday. Then, 41 members will arrive next Monday, and finally, seven members of the delegation will be here on Sept. 28.

The delegation, in two batches, will return to the North by the same route on Sept. 28 and Oct. 5, according to the officials.

North Korea had also competed in the 2002 Asiad in Busan, the previous Asian Games staged in South Korea.

North Korea will field Olympic gold medalists and world champions in Incheon, including Om Yun-chol and Kim Un-guk, a pair of reigning Olympic champs and world record-holders in men’s weightlifting.