Ever since it was announced that Korea would be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics, there has been much back and forth surrounding it. Some hoped that this would positively affect talks between North and South Korea whilst some feared that another missile threat might break out during the games. Recently, the controversy concerning the Olympics has focused on the South Korean administration for being unconditionally favorable to the North. Some commend it as a meaningful effort for peace and unity while others criticize it for being too insubstantial. Hopefully, this global event precipitates favorable political outcomes.
Many have hailed the participation of North Korea in the Olympics games hosted in South Korea as a breakthrough, a step towards easing the tension between the two neighbors. Even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) delayed the deadline for athlete registration after the North hinted it would join. Thomas Bach, the President of IOC, emphasized that, “these proposals mark a great step forward in the Olympic spirit.” With global support backing the cooperation between the separated countries, positive news is bound to grace headlines. Unfortunately, the process has been long and bumpy.
Even before the games began, protestors on the streets of South Korea opposed the visit of a North Korean delegation inspecting the venues for the Olympics. South Koreans were anguished over the politicization of the Olympics, lamenting how the games had become a backdrop for a larger struggle between the two countries. The two Koreas’ decision to include a combined women's ice hockey team, march under one flag and hold several shared cultural events also provoked much ire. While there were those who viewed these measures as a step toward reconciliation, the opposition was dissatisfied that President Moon bent over backwards to accommodate an enemy state, spitefully dubbing the games the Pyongyang Olympics.
Furthermore, despite President Moon's laudable efforts to improve ties, many have questioned whether spending mountains of expenses on North Korea will be effective in striving for peace. However, these expenses have already demonstrated their worth in proactively engaging the North, as evidenced by the warm reception received from media abroad. Many media outlets worldwide foresee that the games will be conducive to peaceful interactions between the two separate countries, extolling them as the “Olympics of peace.” The New York Times reported that “the symbolism this time was particularly striking”; Cable News Network (CNN) praised the unified hockey team for proving that “winning [is not] everything.” Such warm reactions could encourage the reclusive North to begin negotiating on civil terms and scaling back its nuclear weaponry.
Coaxing North Korea to open up to talks once again through the Olympics is especially important because the tension between the two countries cannot be dragged out any further. North Korea is unmistakably in the 21st century. Even though they are riddled with faulty mechanics, the North’s new weaponry is formidable, and it is also adopting modern technology such as blockchain. Should a war erupt in the Korean peninsula, the stakes are as high as ever. Such a risk should not be taken; the current administration must aim toward peace instead of provocation. Easing tension and striving away from war is the best path both countries can take.
For decades North Korea rejected serious talk with the South, always firing missiles whenever subjects unfavorable towards the North arise. In the modern history of the Olympics, despite desperate efforts, it has been almost impossible to separate politics from sports. By participating and marching under a unified flag, this is as close North Korea has come to a unified Korea. As an international event that holds in the highest esteem the value of solidarity, fair play and spirits of friendship, the 2018 Winter Olympics has the potential to bring revolutionary change to the Korean peninsula. Only when the South welcomes this plan with open arms, the tension between the separated countries—whether political, social or military—can be eased.