Chang Ung, left, pictured with IOC President Thomas Bach at Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images

North Korean International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Chang Ung has left the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games early citing illness.

The official, who has been a key figure in helping ensure his country's participation at these Games, has travelled home to Pyongyang via Beijing.

This means that he will not attend the closing part of the IOC Session here on Sunday (February 25) or the Closing Ceremony later the same day.

Chang is set to pass the maximum IOC age limit of 80 this year but could appear at a final IOC Session before graduating to honorary status in Buenos Aires in October.

He expressed his hope that North Korea may co-host the 2021 Asian Winter Games with the neighbouring South.

Gangwon Province Governor Choi Moon-soon suggested such a plan last week as it would enable "a better utilisation of the infrastructure of Pyeongchang after the Games and continued inter-Korean exchanges and reconciliation through sports".

"It is sufficiently possible [to do a Pan Korean Asian Winter Games]," Chang told the Yonhap news agency.

"Since a smaller number of countries participates in the Asian Games, it would be easier than the Olympics."

Chang Ung pictured attending the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games ©Getty Images
Chang Ung pictured attending the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games ©Getty Images

He explained that Masikryong Ski Resort on the outskirts of the eastern city of Wonsan in North Korea could be used.

Sapporo played host to the last edition of the Asian Winter Games in 2017.

A 2021 host is expected to be chosen later this year during an Olympic Council of Asia General Assembly in Jakarta.

South Korea has agreed to pay the $2.64 million (£1.88 million/€2.13 million) bill for North Korea's participation at Pyeongchang 2018 from its Ministry of Unification budget.

The bill is said to include entry fees, accommodation and transport for musicians, cheerleaders and media as well as taekwondo performers.

A delegation of 400 North Koreans has been present at Pyeongchang 2018.

Kim Yo-jong, sister of Kim Jong-un, visited the Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul and invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang to conduct their first summit in more than a decade.

Moon and Kim were pictured together after they shared a handshake during the Pyeongchang 2018 Opening Ceremony.