Positive signal sent out as North and South Korea agreed to march together with single flag at Winter Olympics
By admin January 24, 2018


Last week, on January 17th, the Yonhap news agency reported that the North and South Koreans have agreed that the two national teams will march together at the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony under the Korean peninsula flag. The two nation-states also decided to form a unified women’s hockey team. North Korea will send 30 Taekwondo performers to participate in relevant events in Pyeongchang and Seoul, including participating in a Mount Kumgang joint cultural performance. In addition, North Korea will have more than 150 athletes participate in the winter Paralympics. During the high level talks, the two Koreas have also discussed about the reunion of divided families in the Lunar New Year’s holiday which happens to be the same time as the Winter Games. But they failed to reach any agreement on that issue due to the conditions attached by the North.

Historically, despite that the North Korean Peninsula having been conquered by several dynasties from China, Korea has been an independent state. It is generally agreed that the Korean Peninsula has been unified since the 7th century. In its recent history, the Korean Peninsula had been conquered and colonized by Japan from 1910 until 1945 when Japan was defeated in WWII. However, due to the confrontation between the two superpower nations, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the Korean Peninsula has been split into two parts with the 38th parallel north latitude as the boundary. The northern part is known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and was supported by the Soviet Union, its communist allies, while the southern part became the Republic of Korea (PRK), supported by the U.S. and its allies. Recently tensions between North Korea and South Korea have increased due to the leader of DPRK, Kim Jung Un’s, insistence on conducting nuclear weapon tests and the resulting sanctions that have been imposed by the United Nations on DPRK.

However, the joining of North and South Korea under the peninsular flag is a positive signal sent out by both governments as it shows their willingness to talk given the opportunity presented by the Winter Olympics. Due to the rise of global civil society and the flourishing development of non-governmental organizations, there are many opportunities for the countries that have been facing conflict or potential conflict with one another to break the ice and find solutions through communication and mutual understanding. As a non-governmental, non-profit international organization, the International Olympic Committee plays a particularly important role since the Olympics promotes the spirit of peaceful competition and cooperation. The Olympics has succeeded in creating an international platform for the improvement of diversification, international communication, and cultural and economic exchange.

This unification of North and South Korean’s Winter Olympics march team and some joint-teams remind us of the Ping-Pong diplomacy between the U.S. and China during the early 1970s. The visit of the U.S. table tennis team to China in 1971 eased the cold war tension between the United States and communist China, smoothed President Richard Nixon’s China visit during the following year and drastically renewed dialogue between the two countries.

Despite the positive signal, there are also some voices that warn against viewing the talks as a major breakthrough. As director of the Korea Working Group at the Harvard Kennedy School, John Park, said “Both Koreas are primarily utilizing the talks for a limited objective — arranging the participation of a North Korean delegation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.” Furthermore, from the perspective of the South Korean Olympics games players, the unification with North Korean ice hockey team seems not welcomed. As Sarah Murray, the coach of the South Korean women’s ice hockey team, said “it’s hard because the players have earned their spots, and they think they deserve to go to the Olympics. Then you have people being added later. It definitely affects our players.”


Further Readings:

Yonhap News Agency: S. Korea to push for regular high-level talks with N.K.
North Korea profile – Timeline by BBC
ALJAZEERA: Two Koreas: History at a glance
Recent UN Documents for DPRK (North Korea)

Thanks for sharing !

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