North Korea and South Korea to unite for 2018 Winter Olympics

Mariah Partin, Staff Writer

<> on January 15, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea.

Photo Courtesy creativecommons.org

The 2018 Winter Olympics will begin their Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  Pyeongchang beat out bids from cities including Munich, Germany and Annecy, France.  One of the larger topics of conversation this year is of North Korea’s participation in the winter Olympics.  Given the recent tension with North Korea and their unbalanced leader’s nuclear threats, the Winter Olympics provide a chance for South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in to develop more political credibility and allow for North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un to push his constant agenda of attempting to show the importance of his country. According to Forbes, up to 500 North Korean nationals will be traveling south including athletes, cheerleaders and government officials. President Moon came out in support of their first ever unified hockey team, hoping it could lead to better relations with North Korea.  At the least, North Korea’s participation will provide a temporary thaw between the two countries as Kim Jong Un will not launch any more provocations during the Olympics. North and South Korean officials met face-to-face for the first time in two years to discuss the North sending a delegation, however only two North Korean figure skaters have qualified for the Games as they did not meet the Oct. 30 deadline to accept their spots. The question is still raised on how they plan on transporting and housing some of the world’s most distrusted citizens.  There is also a lower interest in this year’s winter games. Forbes reports only 30 percent of tickets have been sold as of last month. There is an issue of cost as well as transportation of North Korea’s citizens.  South Korea and the International Olympic Committee will pay for some of the accommodations, according to Forbes. Given that South Korea and the IOC hope the unification of these bordering nations will foster a future of better cooperation, they are willing to cover some costs despite the fact that North Korea’s leader has spent billions on nuclear weaponry to target South Korea and its allies.  

South Korea is hoping this cooperation can be achieved under President Moon, the son of North Korean refugees and a former human rights lawyer. President Moon came into power after the last president was accused of government corruption, and had the support of many people ready for change.  There are concerns of adding North Korean women hockey players to the South Korea team shortly before the Olympics as that could have a negative effect on the team, but President Moon hopes that this historical event could have an everlasting effect, Time reports. In the past, Leader Kim Jong Un has made sports a priority, but less so with winter sports. However, North Korean athletes and coaches tend to isolate themselves from others as they are kept under close scrutiny of defection. In North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, they accused South Korea of using the Olympic Games to pave ways for negotiations on North Korea’s weapons programs and chastised President Moon for agreeing that President Trump’s stance on Pyongyang helped push negotiations.  Many are hoping that these new discussions and negotiations will lead to a better relationship with North Korea but it seems this may just be a temporary union for the sake of Olympic participation.

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