SEOUL-- Nearly half of South Koreans believe North Korea's participation will have a positive impact on the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, a survey showed Monday.

The sports ministry said it commissioned a local research firm Metrix to conduct a poll on next year's Winter Games. A thousand South Koreans aged 15 to 79 were polled from July 21 to 22.

And 49.8 percent said North Korea's presence in PyeongChang will have a positive effect on the first Winter Olympics in South Korea. In comparison, only 19.8 percent said having North Koreans compete here will have a negative impact on PyeongChang 2018.

Those who saw North Korean participation as being positive said the occasion could help provide a breakthrough for inter-Korean relations, and that it also corresponds with the Olympic spirit while generating much interest in the Olympics both at home and abroad.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has invited North Korea to take part in the PyeongChang Games, saying the doors will be kept open until the very last minute. PyeongChang organizers have said any peace-loving country, including North Korea, has a duty to compete in the Olympic Games.

Moon has also asked International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach for support to ensure North Korea's participation. Bach has said the IOC has already extended its invitation to North Korea and that it's supporting North Korean athletes to meet the qualifying standards.

While North Korean athletes have yet to qualify for the Olympics -- the country has one last shot at pairs figure skating -- the IOC could grant the country some wild card entries.

North Korea competed in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics but didn't have any athletes at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

As for the South Koreans' expectations for PyeongChang, 63.8 percent said they believed the Olympics will be a success, up from 62.9 percent in May and 55.1 percent in March.

On the other hand, 35.1 percent said they were interested in the PyeongChang Games, down from 40.3 percent in May. Also, 41.1 percent of the polled said they were looking forward to the 2018 Winter Olympics, compared to 44 percent two months ago.

Source: Yonhap News Agency