Olympic rings outside Pyeongchang, South Korea. (Photo: Getty Images)
Olympic rings outside Pyeongchang. (Photo: Getty Images)

Pyeongchang — didn't that used to be called Pyongyang? If you've asked yourself that question, you're not alone. To get it out of the way: the answer to the question is PyeongChang in North Korea is hell no. Although they're only three letters apart, Pyeongchang and Pyongyang are two very different cities — Pyeongchang, the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics, is in South Korea, while Pyongyang is the capital of North Korea. "It's still a big mystery, where Pyeongchang is," said Ed Hula, editor-in-chief of the Olympics news site Around the Rings. "But I think people don't know what Pyongyang is for the most part either."


Other people are wondering is PyeongChang in North Korea

The publicity surrounding the Winter Olympics may clear up that chronic confusion, which has occasionally had dramatic consequences. In 2014, a Kenyan man who was scheduled to attend a United Nations conference in Pyeongchang instead ended up in Pyongyang after a travel agent bought him a ticket to the wrong city. He narrowly escaped arrest for entering the country illegally. Pyongyang, of course, is the home of Kim Jong-Un, who presides over one of the most repressive and volatile countries in the world. (The U.S. banned travel to North Korea as of September 2017, a repercussion of Jong-Un's repeated nuclear testing and the death of U.S. student Otto Warmbier.)


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After the ticket mix-up, the city previously known as Pyongchang in English rebranded itself as PyeongChang with an "e" and capital "C" to avoid similar incidents as the Olympics approached. (Although several publications and broadcasters — including NBC, which is airing the Olympics — don't capitalize the "C.")


How far is Pyeongchang from North Korea?

Pyeongchang is about 50 miles away from the border with North Korea, and is about 183 miles southeast of Pyongyang.

The South Korean city won its bid for the Winter Olympics in 2011, before neighboring Kim Jong-Un had stepped up his missile tests. Although hopeful diplomatic signals have developed in recent weeks — North Korea announced it would send athletes, followed by the decision that the two Koreas would march together under one flag, and Vice President Mike Pence didn't rule out a meeting with North Korean officials during the games — ticket sales for Olympic events were hovering around 60 percent in mid-January, well below average.