South Korea anthem plays for first time in N Korea

History unfolded around two junior South Korean weightlifters in Pyongyang on Saturday after their national anthem was played for the first time on North Korean soil.

South Korean and Kazakhstan flags are hoisted over North Korean spectators at the Weightlifting Championships. Picture: AP

The North’s official KCNA news agency reported that Kim Woo-sik and Lee Young-gyun were placed first and second in the interclub junior men’s 85kg category. They were the only lifters in that division.

Footage from North Korea’s state broadcaster, KRT, showed Kim and Lee standing on the podium as the South Korean anthem played at the arena. North Korean spectators, mostly young men dressed smartly in shirts and ties, applauded as the South Korean lifters received their medals then stood respectfully for the South’s anthem.

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The two Koreas have only resumed dialogue in recent weeks after tensions earlier this year appeared to take their frayed ties to the brink of war, with Pyongyang threatening missile and nuclear attacks against the South and the United States.

The visit was approved by Seoul’s unification ministry last week after Pyongyang promised to guarantee the safety of the South Korean delegation.

The delegation of 22 lifters and 19 officials from the federation flew to Beijing from Gimpo International Airport in Seoul on Tuesday before boarding a connecting flight to the North Korean capital.

The lifters were invited to compete in the 2013 Asian Cup and Interclub Weightlifting Championship from September 11 to 17. The last time South Korean athletes competed in North Korea was in 2003, in an inter-Korean basketball and football event.

In July, the North Korean women’s national football team received a warm welcome in the South when they competed in the East Asian Cup.