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North and South Korea’s Joint Olympics

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North and South Korea’s Joint Olympics

Anabell Xu, Staff Writer

With 2018 comes rapid-fire memes, threats of nuclear destruction, and the Winter Olympics, this year held in PyeongChang. While American, South Korean, and North Korean relations have been tense at best since the new year arrived, a surprising compromise between the two Koreas emerged on Jan. 17, where the two countries agreed to march in the opening parade under one flag.

22 Koreans have qualified to the 2018 Winter Olympics so far, such as the figure-skating pair Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, along with athletes competing in other events like alpine skiing. North Korea is sending a 230-strong cheerleading squad, dubbed the “army of beauties” by Kim Jong-Un himself, to cheer them on. According to PyeongChang Organizing Committee spokesman Sung Baik-You, this unexpected appearance by the cheerleading squad will “help with ticket sales [and] will fulfill our desires for a peaceful Olympics.” The cheerleaders also made an appearance at previous Winter Olympics, but this is the first time they have cheered at a global sports event since the advent of the 21st Century.

Furthermore, the two countries are now featuring the first ever combined team to enter the Winter Olympics. The women’s ice-hockey team will be made up of both North and South Koreans, something that has happened before only in an international table-tennis competition and a youth table-tennis competition in 1991. This momentous collaboration between the two countries might be an indication of thawing hostilities between the two countries. The presence of these athletes also entails the opening of the South-North Korean border for the first time, allowing the athletes to cross on land from North Korea to South Korea.

South Korean leaders hope that both the cheerleaders’ and athletes’ appearances at the 2018 Winter Olympics will allow tensions between North Korea and South Korea to deescalate, and agreed that supporters of both North and South Korea would root together for all Korean athletes. They also agreed on holding joint training sessions prior to the Olympics.

However, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono remains skeptical, insisting that the world not fall into North Korea’s “charm offensive,” especially with the presence of the 230 cheerleaders. “It is not the time to ease pressure, or reward North Korea,” he stated. “The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working.”

Many are also skeptical of North Korea’s motives for attending the Winter 2018 Olympics, citing the regime’s multitude of human rights offensives and questioning whether or not North Korea is truly open to peace talks. People also believe that North Korea could simply be stalling for time and secretly accelerating its nuclear program under the guise of cooperation.

While the question of sincerity still remains, it’s undoubtable that North Korea’s presence in the 2018 Winter Olympics may be the starting point for peace talks and eventual denuclearization. Let’s cheer for the unified Koreas and hope for the eventual de-escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Graphic courtesy of COMMISCEO-GLOBAL.COM

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North and South Korea’s Joint Olympics