The International Paralympic Committee will consider a unified Korea team competing at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games if a request is made by the two Koreas, according to a senior official of the games' governing body.
If North and South Korean athletes march together at the opening and closing ceremonies or form a unified team for some of the events in Tokyo, it will mark the first time for them to do so in any Summer or Winter Paralympic Games.
"It needs to come from the National Paralympic Committees themselves" as the IPC is not tasked with instigating the move, said Craig Spence, chief IPC marketing and communications officer during an interview with Kyodo News in Tokyo on Wednesday.
At the Pyeongchang Paralympics held last March in South Korea, in which two North Korean athletes competed as wildcard entries, a joint march by the two Koreas had been planned for the opening ceremony only for it to be canceled at the last minute.
During the Asian Para Games held last October in Jakarta, however, the two Koreas marched together at the opening ceremony for the first time under a unified flag at a para sport event, according to the IPC.
They also competed as a unified team in three of the events -- one swimming and two table tennis competitions.
Spence is visiting Japan to check on the progress of preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, which will be held from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.
On the overall preparations, he said the Japanese organizing committee has made "excellent" progress, but he added further improvements were still needed.
"It's (accessibility in) accommodation and transport," he said, as the IPC expects up to around 4,350 disabled athletes from between 155 and 165 countries and regions will take part in the upcoming Paralympics.
He urged hoteliers and transport operators, especially bus companies, to look for solutions swiftly.
"I've seen some progress, and hopefully we'll see more progress between now and the games and after the games as well," Spence said, as he maintained the games can act as a catalyst to improving accessibility in those two areas.
"The hard work starts now, because the last full year before the games is always one of the hardest and most challenging for the organizing committee," he said.
Besides accessibility, Spence also touched on another concern the IPC is working to address before the Tokyo Games -- the venue for the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships originally scheduled to be held between July 29 and Aug. 4 in Kuching, Malaysia.
The championships serve as a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
In January, the IPC stripped Malaysia of the right to host the swimming championships, saying the Southeast Asian country failed to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli Para swimmers could participate safely in the championships without being discriminated against.
The IPC is still aiming for the same competition dates this summer, but the event could be postponed to next year if it cannot be held this year, according to Spence.
"So we have some bids that we are reviewing, and we will make a decision and an announcement probably later this year," he said.