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Convincing the public on N. Korea’s participation in Olympics

Convincing the public on N. Korea’s participation in Olympics

Posted January. 18, 2018 10:02,   

Updated January. 18, 2018 10:25

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Jincheon National Training Center in North Chungcheong Province on Wednesday and encouraged national athletes training for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. In regard to a joint parade at the opening ceremony and combined national team, Moon said, “It can be the beginning of developing relationship between South Korea and North Korea with a bigger significance than just the North participating in the Olympics.” To women’s hockey team that the government seems considering a joint team, he said, “Forming a joint women’s hockey team between the South and the North will be a good opportunity to increase the public’s interest and attention in this unpopular sport.” While the president was visiting the training center, officials of the South and the North discussed details about the North’s participation in the upcoming event, including the size of the North Korean delegation, travel route and funding for tour, at the inter-Korean vice-ministerial working group talks at the Peace House of Panmunjom.

Joint parade and combined team of the two Koreas are sensitive issues in South Korea. In particular, the government’s statement about marching under the unification flag has sparked a hot debate in the political community. The opposition parties have argued against the decision that the government is abandoning the national flag, Taegeukgi, as a host country. The unification flag, however, has been used nine times at opening ceremony of multiple international events since 1991, and a large size Taegeukgi will be displayed when South Korean athletes are entering the stadium at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, making it difficult to say the government abandons its national flag. At the same time, in the absence of the government’s appropriate explanations in advance, it seems reasonable that these concerns have been voiced over the current inter-Korean talks.

It is the same for forming a joint team. South Korean women's hockey head coach Sarah Murray said that she thinks there is damage to her players and the government has not explained anything. Amid the situation in which forming a joint team is in a rush when the Olympics is only three weeks away, who will pay for the sense of loss of athletes? Ice hockey players sat at a head table with President Moon during breakfast on Wednesday and Moon tried to encourage them. The writer wonders if it was enough to satisfy young athletes with a few words by the president.

The ongoing controversy and argument could be inevitable sacrifice in order to invite North Korea to the Olympics after its threats on the Korea Peninsula. At least, the North will stop making any provocations during the Olympics, and this friendly atmosphere could lead to a face-to-face dialogue between North Korea and the United States. However, it should not be achieved at the expense of athletes and sport spirit, while plotting events associated with political motives. The South Korean government should pull out all the stops to convince and encourage in order to rally the nation and support athletes.

In addition, the process as to how the North Korean delegation will travel and the travel cost will be funded by South Korea can conflict with the international community’s sanctions on the North. At an international summit in Vancouver on Tuesday, South Korea, Japan and 18 nations participated in the Korean War adopted a statement to consider additional diplomatic actions on the North with the stronger terms than the United Nations’ resolutions on the North. At the summit, U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned, “North Korea could trigger a harsh response if it shunned diplomatic engagement.” Amid festive atmosphere around building friendlier relationship between the two Koreas, the South Korean government must be cautious not to hamper international cooperation on sanction and pressure against the North.