Easing Korean Tensions

North Korea To Attend the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea



South Korea supporters hold up the Korean unification flag at the 2003 World Student Games in Daegu, South Korea

Janet Han, Photojournalist

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, mentioned in a New Year’s speech that he wanted his country to participate in the Winter Olympics. He followed up on Monday, when for the first time in over two years, North and South Korean officials spoke face-to-face. They met at Panmunjom, a village that is located on the border of the two countries, and managed to take multiple steps towards the possibility of reducing their long standing rivalry.


South Korea’s Unification Ministry Spokesperson Baek Tae-hyun explained that they “agreed to discuss the issue of separated families’ reunions at later date, once inter-Korean relations improve further. The two Koreas have agreed to hold talks around various fields, including this issue, which we will discuss further as part of discussions on South-North relations.” (EuroNews). The topic of separated families has been a long-standing problem, and came about as a result of the Korean War that divided the Korean peninsula in half and caused many Korean families to be split up.


However, one of the main results of the discussions were regarding the possibility of North Korea attending the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics that are to be held in South Korea, from February 9th to February 25th (CNN). In the end, they decided that North Korea will attend, marking the first time that they will do so since the 1992 Winter Olympics. This has the potential to be a pivotal move in creating harmony between the two countries, which is heavily needed especially with current world events that are causing increased scrutiny and unrest in regards to North Korea.


But while some South Koreans are taking the news positively, many others within the country and around the world are considering it to be a rash decision. The New York Times reaffirms this, pointing out that critics “fear that the North may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington as a way to reduce sanctions and international pressure.”When asked about North Korea’s planned attendance, Sarah Chen (10) expresses that “it makes [her] uneasy that it might just be a trap as they plan something worse.” After decades of negativity and unrest, it is easy to see why so many South Koreans consider it a risky choice.


Others are similarly upset that they will hold up a shared Korean unification flag, which South Koreans consider to be an unfair decision. As the hosts, they believe they should be able to hold up the South Korean flag, and that North Korea is intentionally attempting to take that opportunity away from them (CNN).


Meanwhile, North Korea is setting up numerous plans for their visit. So far, they have announced plans to bring an unspecified number of athletes, and a cheering squad (ABC News). Further news has revealed plans to also bring a 140 members orchestra, and possibly a popular North Korean, all-girl band named Moranbong. One of the members of Moranbong was present at the meeting between North and South Korea, which sparked controversy and rumors that she may be a lover or girlfriend of Kim Jong Un (Los Angeles Times).


Overall, it is still difficult to discern whether the recent news is positive or negative. There are certainly many implications that can cause it to be seen as either, and heavily varied views on topic. The best thing to do now is to wait and hope that the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will continue smoothly even with North Korean participation.