North, South Korea unify for 2018 Winter Olympics
Despite tensions between the split territories, North Korea and South Korea united as one to send athletic teams to Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympic Games. North Korea’s recent propagation of nuclear weapons and threats against South Korea and the United States have kept the global community on edge for the past few years. However, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un released a statement prior to the Olympics announcing a united delegation of alpine and cross country skiers, figure and speed skaters, and hockey players which will be joining the South Korean Women’s Hockey Team. In addition, North Korea will be sending a delegation of 370 members including journalists, a strong arts troupe, taekwondo exhibitionists and cheerleaders.
For the first time in Olympic history the Koreas have joined to form a joint team represented a unified Korea. However, a question remains: How has this impacted relations along the Korean Peninsula? Prior to the games, North Korea agreed to send a delegation to their Southern neighbors to begin the first high level talks to occur in two years. Following eleven hours of negotiations, the two nations released a joint statement in which they addressed the need to ease tensions along the peninsula, plans for future military talks as well as announcing plans to begin have the two Koreas march under a unified flag during the opening ceremonies. North Korean representatives avoided questions regarding leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons program stating that they are unimportant to relations between the Koreas.
“All our weapons including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missiles are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia,” said North Korean Negotiator Ri Son Gwon.
China, Russia, and the U.N have all praised the recent breakthroughs in relations.
As the Olympics opening ceremonies began on February 9, all eyes on were the North Korean leader’s sister, Kim Yo Jong. United States Vice President Mike Pence was noticeably taken aback by the presence of the foreign dignitary, having previously voiced his suspicions and reservations against North Korea, calling the country a “murderous regime”.
Kim Yo Jong used her stay to officially invite the South Korean President, Moon Jae-In, to North Korea. Moon responded calling for further diplomatic relations along the Korean Peninsula and expressed the necessity for meetings between the US and North Korea.
The women’s hockey team, representing a joint Korea, entered their first and only game on January 7. The team lost A company of 229 North Korean women, each chosen for their beauty, age and ideology, cheered at their backs; they sang of a unified Korea in spite of the tragic 8-0 defeat. The women, known as “the army of beauties” continued to mesmerize the crowds for the duration of the Olympic Games, dancing to various songs from the KPOP group BTS as well as Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” The cheerleading team has captivated many; however critics, such as Japan’s foreign minister, have warned against North Korea’s use of “smile diplomacy.”