By Duncan Mackay in Vancouver

February 17 - South Korea's strong performance in the Olympics here, including the gold medal won by speed skater Lee Sang-hwa (pictured), will help Pyeongchang's bid to host the 2018 Games, it has been claimed by one of its leaders.

Kim Jin-sun, governor of Gangwon Province and co-chairman of the Pyeongchang's bidding committee, claimed that it demonstrated South Korea's interest and strength in winter sports.

After five days of competition, South Korea are currently third overall with five medals, a total made up of three gold and two silver.

Kim said: "It is very uplifting.

"It will help out big time in Pyeongchang's bidding process."

South Korea's gold medals have all been won in speed skating.

Besides Lee, who triumphed in the women's 500 metres, there have been victories for Mo Tae-bum - the men's 500m - and Lee Jung-Su in the men's short track 1500m.

With several medal hopes still to compete, including Kim Yu-Na in the women's figure skating, hopes are high that South Korea will surpass its previous best performance, in Turin four years ago, when they won 11 medals, including six gold.

Kim said: "The level of performance [by a country] at the Olympics is also a key barometer in winning the bid for the Winter Olympics."

The medals table is led by the United States, who have 14 medals, five of them gold, and Germany with 10 medals, three of them gold, which will boost the bid for 2018 of Munich, who are considered Pyeongchang's biggest rivals.

France, who have put forward Annecy to host the 2018 Olympics, are sixth overall with seven medals, two gold.

The International Olympic Committee is due to announce the host city at its Session in Durban on July 6, 2011.

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