South Korean President Moon Jae-in reaffirmed his efforts Monday to make the upcoming Winter Olympic Games here a success, saying the event will mark the start of establishing peace in the region.
The remarks came in the 132nd session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), held in Gangneung, a coastal city located 230 kilometers east of Seoul.
"Now, the IOC and the Republic of Korea are joined here together with the opening of peaceful and safe Olympic Games that we have worked together for just before our own eyes," the president said in a congratulatory speech marking the start of the annual IOC meeting.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers opening remarks at the 132nd International Olympic Committee Session held in South Korea's Gangneung, located some 230 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 5, 2018. (Yonhap)South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers opening remarks at the 132nd International Olympic Committee Session held in South Korea's Gangneung, located some 230 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 5, 2018. (Yonhap)
Monday's meeting came four days before the 2018 Winter Olympic Games were set to begin in Pyeongchang. Cheong Wa Dae said it was customary for the IOC to hold its annual session in the host country of an Olympics in the same year as the games. The 2018 games will end Feb. 25.
Moon expressed gratitude to the IOC and its members for accepting North Korea's last minute decision to take part in the upcoming event.
"Today I cannot but offer my special thanks to IOC President Thomas Bach and other IOC members here at this meaningful occasion. I also express my special gratitude to North Korea's (IOC) member Jang Ung," he said.
North Korea agreed to take part in the PyeongChang Olympic Games after three rounds of talks with South Korea at the start of this year. The talks marked the first inter-Korean dialogue in more than two years.
"Just about a month or two before, many countries worried about the safety of the PyeongChang Olympics. And to many, North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Olympics and the South and the North forming a single team to make peaceful Olympics had often been considered impossible," the South Korean president noted.
"But the concern has disappeared and our imagination has become reality. The largest number of athletes from the largest number of countries in the history of Winter Olympic Games will take part in the PyeongChang Olympics. The number of North Korean athletes will also be the largest in the history of Winter Olympic Games," he said.
Moon insisted that the North's participation alone will send a clear message to the rest of the world that sports can help countries and people overcome their political and ideological differences.
He also said that a success in the Winter Olympic Games will mark the start of building peace in Northeast Asia, as Japan and China are set to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games and the 2022 Winter Olympics, in that order.
"For such an overwhelming goal, I make a promise here to continuously work and cooperate with not only the IOC but Japan, China and all other countries in Asia," Moon said.
The IOC session marked the start of what Cheong Wa Dae called the president's Olympic schedule, which will include a series of bilateral summits with global leaders due here.
First, he is set to hold a bilateral summit with his Estonian counterpart, Kersti Kaljulaid, on Tuesday, followed by bilateral meetings with the governor general of Canada and the president of Lithuania on Wednesday, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
On Thursday, he will meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence for dinner at his office, before heading to PyeongChang the following day for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games and a bilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The South Korean leader is also scheduled to meet his counterparts and other leaders from Switzerland, Poland, Latvia and Norway.(Yonhap News)