North Korean athletes are set to take part in the Winter Olympics in South Korea this month, with all eyes on the Gangneung Ice Arena to see if the isolated regime's medal dreams can come true.
North Korea will send a delegation to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang; that breakthrough announcement was made shortly after the two countries held their first high-level talks in more than two years.
The delegation comprises of a group of cheerleaders, officials and athletes — with figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik seen carrying the country's hopes of glory.
The North Korean skaters, both born in Pyongyang, qualified for the Games in September, though their country's National Olympic Committee (NOC) missed the cut-off date to register the athletes in October. Nonetheless, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has since moved to extend the deadline in order to allow North Korean athletes to have the chance to compete.
"The IOC's mission is always to ensure the participation of all qualified athletes, beyond all political tensions and divisions," the IOC said in a statement.
Ryom, 18 and Kim, 25, performed to "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany last September, with the pair's free-skate display adjudged to have been good enough to secure one of the few remaining qualification spots for Pyeongchang.
While both skaters don't have Olympic experience, the pair has achieved notable acclaim together. In August 2016, the duo won gold at the Pairs Figure Skating event in the Asian Figure Skating Trophy in Manila, Philippines. And less than six months later, they won bronze in the same discipline at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan.
However, in April last year, Ryom and Kim finished 15th at the World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland.
The forthcoming Winter Games will be North Korea's first since 2010. Aside from boycotting the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the 1988 Games in Seoul, the pariah state has participated in all Summer Games since 1972.
And while North Korea has generally exceeded expectations in the Summer Olympics, its track record at the Winter Games is not nearly as impressive. The country has picked up just two medals in eight previous appearances — in the speed skating and short track speed skating disciplines.
— CNBC's Nyshka Chandran contributed to this report.
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