Apr 6, 2021 - World

North Korea first country to pull out of Olympics over COVID concerns

Olympic Rings installation in Odaiba Marine Park, Tokyo, as two women stand by.

The Olympic Rings installation in Odaiba Marine Park, Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

North Korea's sports ministry announced Tuesday that it's decided to pull out of this summer's Tokyo Olympics "to protect athletes from the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus."

Why it matters: North Korea is the first country to withdraw its team from the Games because of pandemic concerns.

  • South Korea's Unification Ministry said it had hoped to use the event to improve inter-Korean relations, which have deteriorated amid an impasse on nuclear talks with the U.S., AP notes.

The big picture: COVID-19 has already delayed the Olympics by a year.

  • Japan's government is forging ahead with its plans to hold the event in the summer, despite local concern about an uptick in coronavirus cases and a sluggish vaccine rollout.
  • Officials have said there will be "ample anti-virus measures" in place at the Olympics, per AP.

Flashback: North Korea gets bafflingly positive coverage at Winter Olympics

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