South Korea and North Korea: Unified For The Olympics? [VIDEO]

South Korea and North Korea: Unified For The Olympics? [VIDEO]

South Korea and North Korea: Unified For The Olympics? [VIDEO]

Well, this is a plot twist in Korean unification talks that is certainly unexpected. South Korean officials have announced that the two Korean nations will be marching under one unified flag at the Olympic Games opening ceremonies. AND they will be forming a joint team for women’s ice hockey as well.

Now, this entire exercise in sports and diplomacy still has to be approved by the International Olympic Committee.

The rival Koreas agreed Wednesday to form their first unified Olympic team and have their athletes parade together for the first time in 11 years during the opening ceremony of next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, officials said.

The agreements still require approval from the International Olympic Committee. But they are the most prominent steps toward rapprochement achieved by the Koreas since they recently began exploring cooperation during the Olympics following a year of heightened tension over the North’s nuclear weapons program.

During their third day of talks at the border in about a week, senior officials reached a package of agreements including fielding a joint women’s ice hockey team and marching together under a blue and white “unification flag” depicting their peninsula in the opening ceremony, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.

A joint statement distributed by the ministry said the North Korean Olympic delegation will travel to South Korea across their heavily fortified land border before the Feb. 9-25 Pyeongchang Games. It said the delegation will include a 230-member cheering group, a 30-member taekwondo demonstration team, journalists, athletes and officials.

The “unification flag” is pretty simple – it’s a picture of the Korean peninsula in blue, on a white flag.

(photo: AFP)
North Korea had previously said that they would participate in the Olympics, and were working out details with the IOC.

The gesture of marching under one flag is unprecedented, but fielding a team together has actually happened before. The unification flag was created for that purpose.

The two Koreas have sent joint teams to major international sports events twice previously, both in 1991. One event was the world table tennis championships in Chiba, Japan, where the women’s team won the championship by beating the powerful Chinese, and the other was soccer’s World Youth Championship in Portugal, where the Korean team reached the quarterfinals.

Is Korean reconciliation a good thing? YES, so long as Kim Jong-un doesn’t end up as dictator-for-life over the entire peninsula. But I have a feeling that is a conversation that the two countries aren’t even having at the moment. Opening up North Korea and allowing freedom of movement (including the reunification of families) would be more than most Koreans could hope for. If Kim Jong-un has eaten his Wheaties and is in a good mood, let’s seize the moment and show the North Korean athletes who can participate in the Olympics that there is an entire world outside of their dictator’s bubble of a country. Even if it is only the reported 10 athletes who compete, the extent of the delegation accompanying them will certainly have their eyes opened.

If the Olympics can actually accomplish some diplomatic good at the PyeongChang games, that would be more valuable than any gold medal.

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