Updated: 08/26/2014 12:42 | By Agence France-Presse

Taekwondo deal to allow North Koreans to compete at Olympics

Rival taekwondo governing bodies have reached a breakthrough agreement paving the way for North Koreans to compete in the sport at the Olympic Games, officials said Tuesday.

Taekwondo deal to allow North Koreans to compete at Olympics

A file photo shows members of the North Korean taekwondo team performing a demonstration event in Chuncheon, east of Seoul, in 2007 - by Jung Yeon-Je

Following years of talks, the Seoul-based World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) and the North Korea-led International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) reached a memorandum of understanding last Thursday, WTF Spokesman Kang Seok-Jae told AFP.

"The agreement paved the way for North Koreans and other ITF-affiliated athletes to compete at the Games, as early as at the 2016 Rio Games," Kang said.

The WTF is the only international taekwondo body sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, and previously only athletes from WTF member countries could compete at the Games.

The agreement between the two governing bodies was reached on the sidelines of the Youth Olympics in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, Kang said.

The WTF's South Korean chief Choue Chung-Won and ITF president Chang Ung of North Korea signed the deal, with IOC President Thomas Bach in attendance.

"With this agreement, the WTF will do its upmost to ensure that every taekwondo athlete has the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games," Choue said in a statement released by the governing body.

Chang said: "This is only the beginning of our cooperation and there will be more to achieve together."

Bach called the signing "a historic step for taekwondo".

"With common roots and a common history, the two federations belong to the same family and it is great to see such an accord," he said.

Under the agreement, WTF and ITF athletes will be free to compete in each other's competitions, but they will have to observe the host's competition rules.

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