North Korea’s Hwang Chung Gum and South’s Won Yun-jong carry the unification flag during the opening ceremony. Image Credit: AP file

Chuncheon: The governor of South Korea’s northeast border province said on Monday he proposed that the two Koreas co-host the 2021 Asian Winter Games to his counterparts in Pyongyang.

Choi Moon-soon, the governor of Gangwon Province, who visited North Korea from August 10-19 to attend an international Under-15 football tournament in Pyongyang, said that the North positively responded to his co-hosting proposal for the largest Asian winter sports festival.

“Co-hosting the Asian Winter Games is a matter to be discussed by the leaders of South and North Korea. I’ll report it to the government but it remains to be seen whether the proposal will be adopted by both sides,” said Choi.

Before the start of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang of Gangwon Province early this year, South and North Korean skiers held joint training at North Korea’s Masikryong Ski Resort. Officials from the two Koreas have since floated the idea of co-hosting the next Asian Winter Games.

According to Choi, the youth football tournament, jointly organised by Seoul’s South-North Korea Inter-Korean Sports Association and Pyongyang’s April 25 Sports Club, was held August 13-18, also featuring teams from Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan and China.

Known as the Ari Sports Cup, the U15 event was first held in South Korea’s border town of Yeoncheon in 2014. This month’s event was the fourth edition.

Choi said that the two Koreas have tentatively agreed to hold the fifth Ari Sports Cup U15 football games in Chuncheon, 85km east of Seoul, in October, and next year’s sixth tournament in the North’s Wonsan.

“North Korea will send two teams to the Chuncheon tournament. I also asked for the participation of a North Korean youth art troupe in the Chuncheon games,” said the governor.

He added the venue of next year’s youth football tournament could be changed to Pyongyang if Wonsan fails to complete the construction of a new stadium by then.

Based on mutual trust built through sports exchanges, Choi said, Gangwon Province will continue to expand cultural and economic cooperation with the North.

In that regard, the province will push for joint exploration of an ancient fortress in the border area, a cruise ship service linking the South’s port of Sokcho to Wonsan, direct flight routes between Gangwon Province’s Yangyang International Airport and the North and the provision of young trees to the North, provincial officials said.