Korean skaters skip a line to avoid stepping on Japanese toes

Reuters SEOUL/GANGNEUNG (Reuters) — A South Korean figure skating pair competing in the Winter Olympics will perform to a popular Korean folk ballad with a couple of words cut to avoid offending Japan over a reference to disputed islands, South Korean officials said on Wednesday.

South Korea, which is hosting the Games, had asked the International Olympic Committee to decide whether the song’s content was acceptable, but officials decided to make the cuts themselves while the IOC was still deliberating.

“We told the skaters to prepare for a version without the lyrics to avoid political controversy and to perform while we wait for the IOC’s decision,” a spokesman for the Korea Skating Union said.

The IOC was not immediately available for comment

But skaters Min Yura and Alexander Gamelin told reporters after a practice session on Wednesday that they had no problem with the change, as only a couple of words from the song would be omitted without any change to the music.

“Our concern was just not to step on any toes,” said Gamelin at the figure skating rink in Gangneung. “I think especially with unification, this whole theme is just coming together, peacefully.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to attend the Games opening ceremony in the city of Pyeongchang on Friday, when delegations from North and South Korea will march together under a single flag, and their athletes will compete as a single team in some sports.

The two Korea’s efforts to achieve a thaw in relations have introduced a new dynamic to the region’s complicated diplomacy.Speech

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