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Two Koreas Engage Through Taekwondo Event in Russia

  • Baik Sungwon

The Taekwondo organizations of North and South Korea will have a rare engagement in Russia next month.

North Korea will send a demonstration team to an international Taekwondo competition organized by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), a South Korea-based international body of the Korean martial art.

An official with the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), a North Korea-led international body of Taekwondo based in Vienna, told VOA's Korean news service last week that his organization will send a team of 22 performers, including 18 North Korean athletes, to the 2015 WTF World Taekwondo Championships.

The event will be held May 12-18 in Chelyabinsk, Russia, about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow.

The move marks the first time North Korea will allow its athletes to take part in the South Korean group’s event, according to the official who asked to remain anonymous.

The North Korean team will perform during the opening ceremony of the competition.

The athletes will be led by Chang Ung, who heads the North Korean Taekwondo organization. Chang, a high-level North Korean sports figure, represents North Korea in the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Sending a demonstration team to participate is one of a series of moves by Pyongyang meant to engage Seoul through sports.

Last week, South Korean media said the communist country will participate in October's CISM Military World Games in Mungyeong, South Korea. Pyongyang plans to send about 200 athletes to the international sporting event for soldiers.

Earlier, Pyongyang said it would send about 100 athletes to the Summer Universiade. The world university student athletes competition will take place in the South Korea’s southern city of Gwangju, beginning in early July.

The North Korean move comes amid heightened tension on the Korean peninsula. Recently, tensions have risen between the two sides over wage increases for North Korean workers at the Kaesong industrial complex.