Korean Unity Brightens Winter Olympics

The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea opened February 9 with a great display of unity from both sides of the 38th Parallel. Andrew Carroll examines what this means for the games and beyond. 

North and South unite under a Korean flag of unity. Present at the Opening Ceremony were South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Yo Jong, sister to Kim Jong Un.

The entrance of a joint Korean hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, likely came as a shock to many after the political tension and threats of nuclear war in the last year.

This is not the first time both countries have marched together in sporting events and it will likely not be the last.

The two rival nations of the Korean peninsula have been at odds ever since the Armistice Agreement following the end of the Korean War in 1953. Separated by the 38th Parallel, no peace treaty was ever signed and so a tense stalemate has existed for nearly 65 years.

Both nations, who have occasionally joined underneath a united Korean flag in various sporting events. The Olympics are traditionally and historically held under an international banner of peace which often helps thaw icy relations between rival nations.

Both Korean teams have participated before – in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, in 2004 in Athens, and in 2006 in Torino, Italy – but most notably is the joint women’s ice hockey team. 12 players from North Korea were added to the South Korean team’s 23 strong roster.

However, the attendance by two high profile North Korean dignitaries could prove even more eventful.

Kim Yo Jong – younger sister to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – will be attending the games along with influential North Korean official Kim Yong Nam. Yo Jong is the first of the immediate Kim family to set foot on South Korean soil and she has already met South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Opening Ceremony.

Discussions of possible diplomatic meetings are already underway between both Northern and Southern politicians.

Though no firm statements have been made regarding future talks, others are eager to involve themselves in what is seen as the first step towards improving diplomatic relations in six decades.

United States Vice President Mike Pence implied he was willing to talk in what could be the first breakthrough in the decades long nuclear standoff between the North, South and the US.

With North Korea visible from the Olympic ski slopes, the South hopes for a degree of reconciliation that may lead to decommissioning talks on the road to a lasting peace between both nations.

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