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Olympics Bring Korean Unification

At+the+2014+Olympics%2C+North+Korean+athletes+and+coaches+wave+during+the+opening+ceremonies+in+Sochi.+The+Korean+athletes+have+combined+to+form+a+unified+team+to+participate+in+this+year%27s+Olympics+in+Pyeongchang%2C+South+Korea.+photo+courtesy+of+Wikimedia+Commons
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Olympics Bring Korean Unification

At the 2014 Olympics, North Korean athletes and coaches wave during the opening ceremonies in Sochi. The Korean athletes have combined to form a unified team to participate in this year's Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

At the 2014 Olympics, North Korean athletes and coaches wave during the opening ceremonies in Sochi. The Korean athletes have combined to form a unified team to participate in this year's Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

At the 2014 Olympics, North Korean athletes and coaches wave during the opening ceremonies in Sochi. The Korean athletes have combined to form a unified team to participate in this year's Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

At the 2014 Olympics, North Korean athletes and coaches wave during the opening ceremonies in Sochi. The Korean athletes have combined to form a unified team to participate in this year's Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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At the 2014 Olympics, North Korean athletes and coaches wave during the opening ceremonies in Sochi. The Korean athletes have combined to form a unified team to participate in this year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For the first time in two years, South Korean and North Korean negotiators met at the Demilitarized Zone (the border between South Korea and North Korea) on Jan. 8.

The Korean Peninsula has been divided since the Korean War (1950-1953). Since this time, there has been high tension between the socialist North and the capitalist South, highlighted by the 1988 Olympics in South Korea that was boycotted by North Korea.

Cooper Steiner, Web Editor

With this fact in mind, many world leaders were surprised by North Korea, when Kim Jong-un during his New Year speech, brought up the prospect of sending North Korean athletes to the Olympic games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Kim Jong-un’s request to send athletes was immediately met with optimism and acceptance from the South. Several fast meetings were conducted to discuss the logistics of the situation. Finally, it was decided that not only would North Korea be able to participate in the Winter Olympics, but they would participate on a unified team with South Korea.

The Korean team came together under a unified Korean flag. This flag featured a light blue unified country of North and South Korea on a white background. North Korea regards the flag as South Korea’s desire to be annexed into the North. South Korea believes the flag symbolizes peaceful co-existence between the two countries, according to scholar and Korea expert Brian Meyers.

“The unification flag was decided by working-level officials from the South and the North as a temporary expedient,” said Kim Hyo-jong, a politics professor at Seoul National University, in an interview with Naver on Nov. 11, 2005. “It’s problematic that many people have come to regard it as an official flag of a unified Korea.”

Twenty-two athletes from North Korea competed in five sports: women’s ice hockey, figure skating, short track speed skating, alpine skiing and cross-country skiing. The unified Korean team did not earn any medals during the course of the Olympic games, but I believe having unified Korean cooperation is worth its weight in gold.

Kim Jong-un made a strong political statement by sending his sister, Kim Yo-jong, to represent North Korea during the games. Most analysts believe Kim Jong-un sent his sister to be a representative of North Korea as she is one of his most trusted advisors. I believe he sent his sister to be a stark contrast to the popular international belief that North Korea is militaristic and uncivilized.

“I hope Pyongyang and Seoul get closer in our people’s hearts,” Kim Yo-jong wrote in a guestbook when she arrived in South Korea, according to CNN. “[I hope we can] move forward the future of prosperous unification.”

North Korea’s recent friendly interactions, however, show the possibility of the beginnings of a new era of hope on the Korean Peninsula. This possibility was recently spotlighted on March 8, when North Korea sent a personal message from Kim Jong-un to President Donald Trump. The message included an invitation from Kim Jong-un for Trump to meet face-to-face to discuss denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

In my opinion, any time interaction can take place in a peaceful environment between two countries with high tensions, those cold feelings toward each other will start to thaw and a new relationship can begin. There is still a long process ahead for the two countries; however, their constant problematic actions with the world superpowers are no way to relieve tension.

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