By Christine Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s foreign ministry stressed the Pyeongchang Olympics will be safe from North Korean provocations in a briefing to diplomats and executives at foreign companies in the country on Friday, as concerns persist over tensions with the North.
Officials and executives from around 120 embassies and companies in South Korea were hosted by the ministry to explain the government’s efforts for a safe Olympic Games scheduled for Feb. 9-25 next year, officials told Reuters.
“We will consider it our top priority to ensure the safety and security of each and every national team, the Olympic family, and all the spectators visiting Pyeongchang during the Games,” said Park Enna, a foreign ministry official, in opening remarks at the meeting.
“(We) will thoroughly prepare the Pyeongchang Olympics so that it may be regarded as the safest Olympics in history.”
Briefing topics included current events regarding North Korea and the Korean peninsula as well as preparations in general for the Pyeongchang Olympics, she added.
Officials from the United States, Japan, Russia and China, as well as members of chambers of commerce for Japan, China and Europe were to attend, according to the ministry.
An official at the Japanese chamber of commerce in South Korea told Reuters ahead of the meeting they were not specifically aware which companies were planning to attend as the ministry appears to have contacted businesses separately.
Park said the UN Olympic Truce Resolution, which has been adopted every two years since 1993 to cease all conflicts during the period of the Truce, will be adopted at the UN General Assembly on Nov. 13 for the Pyeongchang Games.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have risen in recent months as North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump exchanged threats and insults over the North’s nuclear and missile development program.
Concerns over safety grew in tandem as the Games will take place just 80 km (50 miles) from the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, the world’s most-heavily armed border.
France’s Sports Minister Laura Flessel said last month that if the crisis in the region deepened and athletes’ security could not be guaranteed then they would not travel to the Games. Members of France’s Winter Olympics team, however, have remained optimistic the country will not boycott.
Park said governments reportedly hesitant on participating in the Games have stated their position to partake in and support the coming Olympics.
Rattled by rising tensions with North Korea, South Korea has been taking extra measures to try to ensure the safety of the 2018 Winter Games, including setting up a crack cyber defense team and doubling the number of troops, according to officials and documents reviewed by Reuters.
North and South Korea remain technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict with a truce and not a peace treaty.
(Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Joyce Lee; Editing by Greg Stutchbury/Amlan Chakraborty)