The easiest route is for athletes from North Korea to qualify.
From mid-June through mid-August, the North Korean pair of Ms. Ryom, 18, and Mr. Kim, 25, trained in Montreal, refining their attempt to claim one of five Olympic spots available here at this week’s Nebelhorn Trophy competition.
The skaters, their coach and a North Korean skating official spoke frequently about the Olympics, said Bruno Marcotte, a prominent French Canadian coach who worked with the pair.
“All the time they would ask me: ‘Do you think we have a chance to qualify? Are we good enough? What do we need to qualify?’” Mr. Marcotte said of the pair, who aspire to become one of the world’s top 10 teams.
“They didn’t want to talk about politics,” said Mr. Marcotte, who is also here assisting the North Koreans. “It was all about sport and being the first ones in the Olympics and breaking barriers and doing their best.”
It is a widely held feeling among South Korean politicians and Olympic officials, as well as some international athletes, that the Games would be safer with North Korea’s participation, lessening security concerns and perhaps spurring slow ticket sales.
In that view, Kim Jong-un, the unpredictable North Korean leader, would be less likely to act provocatively if athletes from his country were competing in the Olympics, alongside those of China, North Korea’s benefactor.
“It’s kind of an insurance policy to have them there,” said Ted Ligety, a two-time gold medalist in Alpine skiing from the United States.
Of course, there is no way to predict what the political situation will be on the Korean Peninsula in four months, when the Olympics take place about 40 miles from the…