Both Koreas are marching under a common flag this year – well, at least at the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February. It was announced just yesterday (18 Jan) that the North and South Korean athletes will march together at the Winter Olympics under the Korean Unification Flag. (The last time this flag was displayed was the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin when most of us were preoccupied with High School Musical.) While it is certain that North Korea will be sending a delegation of athletes, officials, cheerleaders, arts performers and spectators – including a joint team for the women’s ice hockey team – many other issues still require some fleshing out (how is the delegation travelling to Pyeongchang?) and have yet to be approved by the International Olympic Council.
What lies underneath?
The more important feature which should have been discussed during the talks would be North Korea’s stance on nuclear capabilities. While both sides have agreed to future military talks over easing border tensions, North Korea made a “strong complaint” when South Korea proposed talks for denuclearisation, insisting that all ballistic weapons are “only aimed at the United States, not our brethren”.
Public opinion is mixed – the idea of a joint ice hockey team is not sitting well with the South Korean women players, who might be replaced in the team by another North Korean player due to roster limitations. According to a survey, more than 70% of South Koreans are against forming a joint team with the North (although 80% welcomed their participation).
All in all, the world is divided on North Korea’s surprise move towards a possible reconciliation, with Japan being more cautious and South Korea optimistic. Safe to say though, the highly-anticipated Pyeongchang Winter Olympics could be another major chapter in the history books of the two Koreas.