DPRK pulls out of Tokyo Olympics citing COVID-19
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea became the first country to drop out of the Tokyo Olympics because of coronavirus fears, a decision that underscores the challenges facing Japan as it struggles to stage a global sporting event amid a raging pandemic.
A website run by DPRK’s Sports Ministry said its national Olympic Committee during a meeting on March 25 decided not to participate in the Games to protect athletes from the “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”
The pandemic has already pushed back the Tokyo Games, which were originally scheduled for 2020, and organizers have scrambled to put in place preventive measures, such as banning international spectators.
However, there’s still concern that the Olympics could worsen the spread of the virus and Japan’s rising caseload and slow vaccine rollout have raised public questions about whether the Games should be held at all.
Japan’s Olympic Committee said that DPRK has not yet notified it that it wouldn’t participate in the Tokyo Games.
Katsunobu Kato, Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, said the government hopes many countries will join the Olympics, promising ample anti-virus measures.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry expressed regret over DPRK’s decision, saying it had hoped that the Tokyo Olympics would provide an opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations, which have declined amid a stalemate on nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
Choi Young-sam, a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said the government supports Japan’s efforts to push ahead with the Olympics while taking safety measures.
DPRK has been saying that it has successfully grappled with the pandemic, with no cases confirmed since early last year, but it has taken aggressive measures to contain the virus, including shutting its borders.