Winter Olympics: North and South Korea agreed to march under same flag

Some of Seoul’s allies expressed concern that Pyongyang may be using the talks to buy time to pursue its weapons program

Winter Olympics: North and South Korea agreed to march under same flag

On January 17th, North and South Korea agreed to march under a united flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies and compete together in their first ever joint Olympic team. It is the most dramatic gesture of reconciliation between the two nations in a decade.

In addition to athletes competing in the games, North Korea is expected to send hundreds of cheerleaders and orchestral musicians to the ceremonies.

The two countries agreed to hold joint practices for ski athletes over at a ski resort in North Korea, as well as holding a joint cultural event in the northern nation. North Korea, through an unusual proposal, is willing to send its delegation to South Korea. This act will signify the opening of the border for the first time in almost two years.

But North Korea’s participation in the games isn’t certain. It missed the registration deadline and now it is up to the International Olympics Committee to approve its wish to partake in the event. The nation also plans to send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Paralympics, which is being held in March.

South Korean athletes, who have far more resources and Olympic experience than their counterparts from the North, have cringed in the past at the idea of sacrificing their hard-earned prospects for the sake of unity. The South Korean women’s hockey coach Sarah Murray told reporters that she thought the suggested joint hockey team would affect the team’s chemistry and create a difficult situation for her players.

Wednesday’s announcement is the latest advance since talks began between the two Koreas earlier this month, after years of broken communications.

The news was well received by top officials at the United Nations, where Secretary General António Guterres has said he plans to attend the opening ceremonies. The president of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak, from Slovakia, said on Twitter, “Heartened by reports that Koreans from DPRK & RoK will march together in Olympics opening ceremony”.

While the two sides have earned admiration for decreasing military tensions, some of Seoul’s allies expressed concern that Pyongyang may be using the talks to buy time to pursue its weapons program.

South Korea's recently elected president, Moon Jae-in, presented the idea of North Korea participating in the games and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed a willingness to participate in talks about the Olympics during his New Year's speech, during which he also threatened the US.

South Korea first sought to use sports to ease military tensions back in the 1960s, suggesting joint teams for international athletic events. But sports diplomacy has never led to a lasting political thaw on the Korean Peninsula, which has remained technically in a state of war since the Korean War.

 

Latin American Post | Carlos Gómez
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

 

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