Illustration by Lauren You
The decision of The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and The People’s Republic of Korea to send a joint delegation to Pyeongchang’s Winter Olympics is nothing more than a diplomatic stunt to ease the latest tensions in the region. In the long run, this event will fall into meaningless oblivion.
As a Korean, the news of having a joint women’s ice hockey team for both North and South Korea seemed like a silver lining in the ongoing tension on the Korean peninsula. Maybe I won’t have to go to the army, I hoped. However, after giving the situation more probing consideration, I realized that my dreams of idealistic resolution were too naïve.
On Feb. 9, 2018, North and South Korea entered the opening ceremony of the Peongchang Winter Olympics under the same flag. Although astonishing given the political context, it was not the first first time that North and South Korea were united under one flag. The joint flag was displayed multiple times between 1991 and 2007 for international sporting events.
The joint women’s ice hockey team of North and South Korea carries a significant weight in diplomatic significance. The third joint team in 27 years may be a diplomatic opportunity for both nations to overcome the ongoing tensions; especially after North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile and the claims of developing a hydrogen bomb.
Just as the Olympics served as a method to unify the Ancient Greek city states, the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is a moment of peace and unification for North and South Korea. A joint team carries a higher significance in the sense of unity, as an official symbol of peace and as an official statement of cooperation. Moreover, this collaboration could serve as an excuse to open up North Korea for further diplomatic efforts to improve the current tension, or so is the ever-so-optimistic opinion of South Korean government.
Only in the last year, North Korea’s military development has been astonishing. The country built an ICBM missile, and there is a high probability of North Korea developing its own nuclear arms. Like it or not, it is a fact that North Korea has the upper hand in terms of military capacity on the peninsula. It is very hard to imagine North Korea opening up to a peaceful resolution with South Korea, when such an agreement would require North Korea to make peace with their sworn enemy: the United States of America. While the united Olympic team is a wonderful gesture of goodwill, it is unlikely that they have any significant bearing on the actual politics.
Ultimately, if I were asked if the act of having a unified team between the North and South Korea during the Pyeongchang Olympics would have any effect on the relationship between the two, I would say that it will only open up meaningless conversations. It is quite clear that North Korea threatened to nuke practically anywhere in the globe, and that they will not forfeit such power. It is also clear that both South Korea and the U.S. are reluctant to allow North Korea to maintain this power.
As a South Korean myself I surely hope that there will be a peaceful way to resolve conflict within the peninsula. Sadly, I do not see much of a bright future, considering the current position of the North. As far as the 2018 Winter Olympics are concerned, I am sorry that the women’s ice hockey team is required to practice together on such short notice and I hope for the best outcomes from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.
Evan Lim is contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]