Shelling and sports don’t mix

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Shelling and sports don’t mix

North Korea has announced that it will send its athletes and sports delegation to the Incheon Asian Games, which will be held from Sept. 19 through Oct. 4. It will be the third time North Korea has sent athletes and representatives to international sports events held in South Korea, following the 2003 Busan Asian Games and the 2004 Daegu Universiade.

In individual sporting events, both sides sent teams to each other’s turf. In the 2013 East Asian Championship in South Korea, for instance, North Korea sent its women’s national soccer team to Seoul. Two months later, at the Asian Weightlifting Championships organized by the Asian Weightlifting Federation in Pyongyang, South Korea sent its national squad.

Sports exchanges can serve as a catalyst for easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula as seen in the soccer matches between Seoul and Pyongyang in 1990, which led to the historical Inter-Korean Basic Agreement between South Korean President Roh Tae-woo and North Korean leader Kim Il Sung in 1991 on reconciliation, nonaggression and cooperation. Moreover, a unified team’s participation in the 1991 World Team Table Tennis Championship in Japan led to a moving victory for the women’s team, and a joint soccer team advanced to the quarter final in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Portugal in the same year.

Needless to say, sports exchanges should be welcomed, and the more, the better.

But such exchanges lose their meaning when one side is still engaging in military provocations and verbal attacks on our president. On Friday, the North fired two artillery shots at one of our Navy’s boats patrolling near the waters off Yeonpyeong Island on the tense maritime border on the Yellow Sea. Our Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that the two shells fell in waters only 150 meters (492 feet) away from the patrol ship. North Korea’s shelling of our naval vessels is a new type of military provocation. On the very day when Pyongyang notified Seoul of its intention to join in the Incheon Games, it claimed that South Korea fabricated the report of the shelling.

We are dumbfounded at the North’s unfathomable logic. On the one hand, it talks about the spirit of friendship that will mark the Asian Games. On the other, it accuses South Korea of fabricating an attack on its own ship. North Korea must not forget that only when it stops military provocations and calumnies against South Korea can the Incheon Games turn into an international sports festival for peace.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 24, Page 30



북한이 오는 9월의 인천 아시안 게임에 선수단을 파견한다고 23일 발표했다. 북한이 남한 개최 국제 종합 스포츠대회에 선수단을 보내는 것은 2002년 부산 아시안 게임과 2003년 대구 유니버시아드에 이어 세번째다.
종목별 대회는 남북 경색국면 속에서도 교차 참가가 이뤄졌다. 지난해 7월에는 북한 여자 축구 대표팀이 국내에서 열린 동아시안컵 축구대회에 참가했고, 두달 뒤엔 평양 아시안컵 역도 선수권대회에 한국 선수들이 출전했다. 1990년 경ㆍ평 축구대회나 91년 세계 탁구선수권 남북 단일팀 출전은 남북 긴장 완화와 교류 증진의 촉매가 되기도 했다.
남북간 스포츠 행사는 대표적 민간 교류로서 환영할 일이다. 다다익선이다.
그러나 북한이 대남 도발과 대통령에 대한 막말을 계속하는 상황에서의 스포츠 교류는 빛을 발하지 못한다. 그제는 북한이 연평도 근해에서 초계 임무 중이던 우리 해군 유도탄 고속함에 2발의 포격을 했다. 포탄은 우리 함정에서 불과 150여m 떨어진 해상에 낙하했다. 함정을 겨냥한 포격은 새로운 유형의 도발인데도 북한은 아시안 게임 참가를 통보한 날, 남측이 꾸며낸 기만극이라고 주장했다.
북한이 도발하고선 날조라고 하면서 평화와 단합, 친선의 아시안 게임 정신을 얘기하는 것은 앞뒤가 맞지 않는다. 북한이 대남 군사 도발과 비방중상을 멈출 때 남북 관계는 개선의 실마리를 찾고 인천 아시안 게임은 평화의 제전이 된다.
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