Unification Amid Disunity


Courtesy of NYMag

Pyeongchang, South Korea is the host for this year’s Winter Olympics, and there were questions raised about whether or not North Korea would compete.

Nick Warnament, Sentry Staff Reporter

The Korean War ended in a stalemate 65 years ago, and since then the Korean peninsula has been divided. The people of North and South Korea are ethnically the same but have been separated by two different ideologies for decades. Pyeongchang, South Korea is the host for this year’s Winter Olympics, and there were questions raised about whether or not North Korea would compete. The two nations decided to field a unified Olympic team, a choice that surprised many because of the hatred between the two governments. Many countries were puzzled by the Korean athlete exchange; just recently, Kim Jong Un tested a ballistic missile with capabilities to strike the United States, which is one of South Korea’s greatest allies. The two nations have a history of violence, and when South Korea prepared to host the 1988 Summer Olympics, North Korean agents orchestrated the bombing of a South Korean airliner, killing 113 South Korean nationals. The bombing was set up to deter countries from participating in the games because North Korea’s government was jealous that their neighbors/enemies had been given the honor of hosting the games.The threat did not work, and the games went on without a problem. 30 years later, North Korea’s strategy is completely different. Instead of using violence, they are using peaceful means to achieve their goals. This seems odd, as peaceful is not a word you associate with North Korea. Everything about the unification of athletes from top to bottom is just bizarre.

The two countries have done this before; the two nations entered the 2000 Olympics under a unified flag as well. However, the mood is much different this time around. Back in 2000, Koreans were hopeful that a unified Korea Olympic team could signal a new era of peace. In 2018, that hope has been replaced with skepticism and distrust. The North has been going out of their way to flex their military might by testing high powered weapons, causing unrest in the South. Furthermore, the people of South Korea are no longer as interested in the idea of a unified Korea as past generations have been. This new generation of South Koreans have never experienced a united Korea like their grandparents had and therefore would rather continue to live their lives as they have been instead of feeling the financial burden of a reunification.

Hosting the Olympics is a difficult task for the host nation. Years of preparation and millions of dollars worth of infrastructure are put into making the event spectacular. Not only is the task difficult for the host nation’s government, but it is also obviously a feat for any athlete that qualifies for it. Some athletes train from the ages of four or five to be able to compete on the world’s biggest stage. For many of the South Koreans, walking out alongside North Koreans under a flag that was not even theirs must have hurt. After all the work athletes put into being able to represent South Korea at the Olympics, it is downright disrespectful that they are not able to walk out under their own flag. South Korea owes their neighbors to the north absolutely no favors. North Korea paid a balance of exactly zero dollars in costs toward building the stadiums and improving the infrastructure in Pyeongchang. They have spent the last year intimidating the South with nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. North Korea has not been friendly to the South since it was formed in 1948. Why should the South give them any recognition at the Olympics? They shouldn’t. The most obvious reason against the unification of the Olympic teams is a geographical one, right in front of everyone’s noses: the Olympics are in South Korea, not North Korea. There is a one host nation at any Olympics, not two.

The only way that the unrest on the Korean peninsula will be alleviated is by the eradication of the North Korean state. The North will only want to unify with the South if they can keep their own government and their system, something that most people in the South would reject. The superficial act of combining the two Olympic teams from each country will not bring the two any closer to peace, and therefore the South Korean government should not have taken this action. In future games, they should just let their athletes compete under their own flag rather than appease their belligerent neighbors to the north.