Korea under one flag at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

Published On February 16, 2018 | By Noman Sattar | 2018 Olympics, News, Politics


Feb 10, 2018; Gangneung, South Korea; (left to right) South Korea president Jae-in Moon; IOC president Thomas Bach; North Korea nominal head of state Kim Long Nam; and Kimm Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, during women’s ice hockey Group B play between Switzerland and Korea in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre. (USA TODAY Sports/Andrew Nelles)

Noman Sattar

Korea is competing at the Pyeonchang Olympics under one flag, portraying a message of peace and harmony, but Koreans at home are taking it as political diplomacy.

The games came at a time when the two Koreas have a complicated and tense relationship.

The two countries formed united teams in figure skating and ice hockey for the games that held in the mountain village of Pyeongchang, just 80 km from the Demilitarized Zone.

Koreans in Canada are following games as a hope to have a peaceful relationship in the region, but some are skeptical about the two countries competing under one flag. While many of them are optimistic while the majority of South Koreans are seeing this as an attempt of North Korea stealing the Olympics.

The Canadian Korean business community members are progressive about the outcomes of the stretchy mood of both the Korean countries. According to them, the games alone will not lead to any real change, but it could help emerging the dialogue between the two countries towards change.

“The games will have a positive effect on the relationship between North and South Korea, even though it may be short-lived,” said Sung Van, President of Canada Korea Business Association and principal at Latitude Agency in Vancouver, B.C. “I am optimistic that North Korea’s relation with South Korea and the rest of the world will improve.

“Don’t we all want peace in the world?” Van asked.

The game seems to have come at a moment when both Koreas appear are willing to solve their issues and ease the complicated and tense relationship without any international involvement.

North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un “wanted to have a conversation with South Korea,” said Jongmin Lee, postdoctoral fellow in mechanical engineering at the University of Toronto. “I think that Olympic was a perfect chance for Kim to open up the conversation without agitating the involved countries. So, between the two Koreas, it will appear to be relaxed.”

Some say that reflective of South Korea president Jae-in Moon’s more liberal policy is to work out the struggles through peace talks, a descendant of the well-known “Sunshine Policy,” an attempt to soften the north’s attitude towards the south. Others say that the U.S.-North Korea relationship is the more germane reality and South Korea is acting as the mediator.

“I am not happy at all that the Moon administration invited North Korea to the Olympics, and they just approved $2.6 million funding for their team and cheerleaders,” Lee said. “I guess that Korean government wants to talk to them peacefully, but I am certain that Kim has a different idea.”

In the past, there was a nation-wide support of unification, but now, South Koreans are starting to feel that the present economic, social, and political factors make unification an unrealistic option. Millennials raised in an era detached from the pre-war period are becoming more skeptical of the idea the two countries should unite by virtue of history and heritage.

The Olympics is achieving one of its goals by bringing a country divided by war under one flag. The games alone will not lead to real change, but it could help further the dialogue between the two countries.


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