- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

SEOUL — South Korea views its bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics as the latest in a series of attempts to promote reconciliation on the divided peninsula.

The International Olympic Committee, meeting in Prague, is slated to decide tomorrow among Vancouver, British Columbia; Salzburg, Austria and South Korea’s Pyeongchang City, the hub of a growing winter sports playground that abuts the world’s most heavily militarized border.

Kim Jin-sun, governor of Gangwon Province of which Pyeongchang is the capital, refuses to accept conventional wisdom that the bid is a long shot.

“Having the Games here would help bring reconciliation to the Korean Peninsula, which is in line with the Olympic charter,” he said by telephone.

For that reason, alone, he said, “We should be given a chance to host the Games as soon as possible.”

Mr. Kim also said North Korea has agreed to support the effort and cooperate.

Divided since the 1950-53 Korean War, the peninsula has seen a dramatic rise in tensions in recent months resulting from North Korean efforts to make atomic bombs.

Mr. Kim said he understands people’s concerns but that he expects the dispute to be resolved peacefully and not directly affect security at the Olympics.

Apart from reducing tensions, he hopes the Olympics will help expand winter sports in Asia, a goal he says is also in line with the Olympic movement.

No Winter Olympics has been held in any Asian country except Japan.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has promised the world’s biggest and best Olympics if Pyeongchang is selected.

“We will do everything we can to make these Games the most successful Games in the history of the Olympic movement,” Mr. Roh recently told a small gathering of reporters at the presidential Blue House.

The South Korean government has earmarked $31 million for infrastructure and other projects to support the bid by the eastern city, which received high marks earlier this year from International Olympic Committee inspectors.

Though the competing cities still have the edge in name recognition, South Korea is hoping for a come-from-behind victory.

“In general, Koreans are very good at having the last laugh,” Mr. Roh said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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