SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea launched a support team aimed at helping the home nation finish in the top four at the 2018 Winter Olympics on Wednesday and announced it had increased a special grant to help athletes prepare for the Games to almost $30 million.
The alpine town of Pyeongchang will host Asia's first Winter Games outside Japan in almost exactly a year's time. South Korea will send more than 130 athletes to participate in seven sports with the aim of winning 20 medals.
The support team would comprise representatives from the ministry, the 2018 organizing committee (POCOG), national winter sports bodies as well as the Korean Sport and Olympic committee, the ministry said in a statement.
"We will provide assistance centered around on-site support so that our athletes can maximize the advantages as the host nation team to achieve success," vice sports minister Yu Dong-hun said in the statement.
South Korea provided a special grant of 27.4 billion won last year to help athletes prepare and train for the Games and this had been raised to 33.7 billion won ($29.21 million) for 2017, it added.
A traditional powerhouse in short track speed skating, South Korea also has high hopes in skeleton and bobsleigh for the upcoming Games.
At the last Winter Games in Sochi, Korea finished with just three golds and in 13th place. That came after they were fifth in Vancouver with six gold medals.
The Pyeongchang Olympics are scheduled for Feb. 9-25 next year.
(Reporting by Yun Hwan Chae; Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by John O'Brien)