(ATTN: ADDS photo, more remarks from Park in paras 7-8)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Thursday hosted a luncheon for South Korean athletes who participated in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics to express her appreciation for their hard work during the quadrennial event, her office Cheong Wa Dae said.
The gathering at the presidential office brought together some 310 athletes and sports officials, including Olympic golf champion Park In-bee, gold medalist shooter Jin Jong-oh and rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae.
Also among the participants were Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Kim Jong-deok, Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) President Kang Young-joong and Ryu Seung-min, the new member of the International Olympic Committee.
During the gathering Park stressed that the Olympic athletes have risen as a "symbol of hope and courage" for the nation.
"Many citizens have said that they gained new courage and pride (thanks to the athletes) at a time when they have grown tired of the continued heat wave and with the nation facing many challenges," Park said.
President Park Geun-hye speaks during a luncheon with South Korean athletes who participated in the Aug. 5-21 Rio de Janeiro Olympics at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Aug. 25, 2016. (Yonhap)
"The energy of your positivity from the other side of the globe has breathed fresh life into our society," she said.
Park, in addition, said that what was more crucial than the outcome of the Olympic games was South Korean athletes' "genuine can-do spirits."
She also pledged to ensure that athletes can train under "better conditions" and that they can lead a better life after their retirement.
At the Aug. 5-21 Rio Games, South Korea was represented by 333 athletes and officials in 24 of the 28 sports. It won nine gold, three silver and nine bronze medals to finish in eighth place overall among the 206 countries that competed in Rio.
President Park Geun-hye claps with South Korean athletes who participated in the Aug. 5-21 Rio de Janeiro Olympics during a luncheon for the athletes at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Aug. 25, 2016. (Yonhap)