Going crazy over the Games

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Going crazy over the Games

The liberal Moon Jae-in administration’s push for a single team for women’s ice hockey in the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics is gaining momentum. The organizing committee of the Games will discuss the issue Saturday in a four-party meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the International Olympic Committee is located. The four parties involved are the International Ice Hockey Federation, South and North Korea’s National Olympic Committees and the IOC.

The two Koreas formed a single team twice in 1991, for the International Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan, and the FIFA World Youth Championship in Portugal. The two sports events marked historic moments for the divided nations to achieve ethnic harmony and reconciliation after the Korean War.

This time, however, controversy arises over the proposed formation of a single hockey team. Many South Koreans believe that a sports event cannot be sacrificed to their government’s political goals. The Moon administration has not yet delivered on its position of a single team even though it would deprive some of our hockey players of a priceless opportunity.

It is also questionable if a hurriedly united hockey team can really play a good game with only three weeks left before the opening of the Olympics. The government appears to be turning a blind eye to the “blood, sweat and tears” of our athletes to take part in a thrilling Olympic drama. The government seems to prioritize its political goal of achieving ethnic harmony over the sacred Olympic spirit of fair competition.

Our young generation mostly regards the government’s one-sided push for a single hockey team as anachronistic. Even legendary table tennis player Hyun Jung-hwa — an Olympic gold medalist who played with her North Korean counterpart in Chiba 27 years ago — lashed out at the government’s push for a single team. “The government’s top-down order is not acceptable. It must talk with our players,” she emphatically said.

In the Jan. 20 meeting in Lausanne, the four parties will discuss other issues, including whether to allow South and North Korea’s teams to carry a flag of the Korean Peninsula instead of their national flags. Many criticize Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Do Jong-whan’s push for the weird flag. Our people’s attitudes toward North Korea have changed. The government should not ignore its need to communicate with the public because of its ideological ambitions.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 17, Page 30
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