Bridging the 38th Parallel
North and South Korea come together for 2018 Winter Olympics
By: Francesca Gugino
On Feb. 9, North and South Korean olympic athletes marched together at the opening ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea. The olympians carried the Korean Unification Flag, rather than the two separate country flags, symbolizing unity and togetherness after decades of rigid division. The two countries also opted to combine their women’s hockey team, which is composed of athletes both from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Spectators, some skeptical of North Korea’s intentions and others hopeful that this act is a step toward the liberation of the North Korean people, watched with anticipation wondering what this could mean for the future of the two Koreas.
Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s militaristic dictator sent his sister Kim-yo Jong to represent North Korea as a diplomat at the 2018 Winter Olympics as the first North Korean dynasty member to visit South Korea since the armistice in 1953. She spoke with hope for Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, and Seoul, the capital of South Korea to get closer in and move forward the future of prosperous unification. Kim met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Feb. 10 at the presidential Blue House in Seoul. She has been painted as a kind and level headed representative of North Korea, the antithesis of her cruel and authoritarian brother who has been called out for his violations of human rights and testing of nuclear missiles. Kim-yo Jong has even been referred to as the “Ivanka Trump of North Korea” by many news outlets including CNN. Kim is part of North Korea’s Politburo, the top twenty officials of the communist government. She is considered to be highly trusted by her brother, the “Supreme Leader” of North Korea’s communist nation.
However, many are weary about the intentions that Kim-yo Jong has, uncertain as to whether or not her intentions and charm are authentic or merely a display to gain positive publicity for the nation. The unity that the two countries have appeared as progress toward a peaceful North Korea and a reconciliation of their broken relationship, but many have spoken out reminding the public that North Korea is an oppressive regime and that it will take much more than a Unification Flag and joint hockey team to repair the problems. Many don’t believe that the Kim dynasty is really progressing.
“I’m afraid a lot of Koreans have been fooled by Kim Yo-Jong’s visit.” stated Yang Sun-woo, who was interviewed by the New York Times at an anti-North Korea demonstration in Seoul South Korea. Many fans expressed resentment toward the combination of the teams, feeling that the South Korean women were hard working and had been hindered by the late addition of these new players.
This skepticism was not seen in the members of the Korean Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. The combined team, who finished the olympic games with a collective two goals and a loss in every game, showed the world that the people of North Korea and South Korea could come together and work toward a common goal. The South Korean team, who played together for several years, added around a dozen new players to the team just a month before the start of the olympics. Head coach Sarah Murray spoke out about how “remarkable” it was for the young athletes from two very different countries could come to play together effectively in a very short period of time.
At the end of the Korean women’s last game, a loss to Sweden, the team members came together at center ice chanting, “We are one!”. This act raised many questions. Was this simply a political stunt? Were the North Korean women being used as pawns by the Kim dynasty by appearing sweet, innocent and normal? Will any true change come from the olympic games or will Kim-Jong Un continue to conduct missile testing and perpetuate the horrible oppression and poverty of the North Korean citizens?
South Korea has come out with a statement saying that it will still join the United States, at a postponed date, to perform military exercise Foal Eagle, which Trump has agreed to postpone. The goal of this drill is to learn and practice to “‘detect, defend, disrupt and destroy’ North Korean nuclear and missile facilities.”
Now, all we can do is wait to see what comes of the unity and positive publicity that North Korea has worked toward over the past few months.
Korea – Administrative map. Pyongyang, 1964
By: Sludge G
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