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SEOUL — North Korea has decided to send 22 athletes to the Winter Games in the neighbouring South next month and compete in three sports and five disciplines, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.

In the most symbolic agreement approved Saturday, 12 North Korean women’s hockey players will join their neighbors in a united roster playing in special uniforms with a Korean song as their anthem.

The North Korean delegation will also include 24 coaches and officials, plus 21 media representatives at the Feb 9-25 Winter Games.

North Korea will send two male speed skaters, two men and one woman in cross-country skiing distance events, and two men and one woman in Alpine skiing’s slalom and giant slalom races.

North Koreans will also compete in figure skating, short track speed skating, Alpine skiing and cross-country skiing after being given exceptional late entries by the IOC.

The IOC said in a statement that the North and South had agreed to march under a single flag at the opening ceremony and would field a united team in the women’s ice hockey, confirming earlier reports.

North Korea’s planned involvement in Pyeongchang is viewed as a sign of easing tensions over its nuclear and missile program.

The IOC said the united Korean delegation would be led into the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony under the Korean Unification Flag which would be carried by two athletes, one from each country.

The most symbolic sporting aspect of the deal is a women’s hockey team — the first time that the two Koreas will have joined together in Olympic events.

They will play under the acronym COR and hear the song Arirang as a pre-game anthem.

AP/Reuters

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