Back in July, when we passed along the news that former NHLer Jim Paek had been hired by the Korea Ice Hockey Association to coach the national team, it was no sure thing that South Korea would be granted an automatic bid to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games.
That’s no longer the case today, as the IIHF Congress has granted the country’s men’s and women’s teams the opportunity to play in front of their home fans.
From the IIHF:
The decision came following meetings held during the 2014 IIHF Semi-Annual Congress, where the KIHA presented a comprehensive four-year plan to intensify the development of the men’s and women’s teams. The plan has the backing of the IOC, the Korean government, and national sponsors, who together with the KIHA have pledged to invest over $20 million U.S. into the national team program in the leadup to the Games.
In addition to the financial investment, the KIHA plans to organize annual exchange programs for their players with the world’s top hockey leagues and organizations. A major effort will be also made towards increasing the number of domestic and international games for the national team.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that the men’s team will have to face off against the best players in the world, as there’s still been no decision on whether to send NHLers.