Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik

The entire world will be watching the Gangneung Ice Arena this month as North Korean athletes compete in the Winter Olympics in South Korea to see if the reclusive state will finally realise its medal hopes.

Shortly after the two nations held their first high-level meetings in over two years, it was announced that North Korea would send a delegation to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

Figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik are among the sportsmen and officials that make up the delegation.

Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik

“Above and Beyond All Political Tensions”

North Korea’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) missed the deadline in October to register the Pyongyang-born skaters for the Games, despite the fact that the pair qualified in September.

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Still, the IOC has taken the necessary steps to extend the deadline, so that North Korean athletes would have an opportunity to participate.

According to an official statement released by the organisation, “the IOC’s aim is always to ensure the participation of all eligible athletes, despite all political tensions and differences.”

At the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany last September, Ryom, then 18, and Kim, then 25, skated to The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” and their performance was deemed excellent enough to earn them one of the final qualification spots for Pyeongchang.

Relationship Between Ryom and Kim

While both skaters don’t have Olympic experience, the pair has achieved remarkable 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 event 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.

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North Korea hasn’t participated in the Winter Olympics since 2010. Despite its unpopularity, the pariah state has attended every Summer Olympics since 1972, barring only the ones in Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988).

And while North Korea has often exceeded expectations in the Summer Olympics, its track record at the Winter Games is not quite as good. In eight prior attempts, the country has only managed to win two medals, both coming in the form of speed skating and short track speed skating.