Listen to the peopleDespite the agreement between South and North Korea to form a single women’s ice hockey team for the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, South Koreans increasingly disapprove of the consensus sought by the liberal Moon Jae-in administration for the sake of achieving harmony and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Most of them oppose the deal pushed by the government without seeking the understanding of our hockey team.
A number of South Korean netizens posted Thursday their opposition on the homepage of the Blue House. The results of an SBS survey on Jan. 9 showed similar sentiments. 72.9 percent of the respondents said that there is no need for the government to press ahead with the formation of a unified team, while a whopping 82 percent of people in their 20s and 30s — the core support base for the Moon administration — was against the idea.
The reaction reflects strong resistance by the young generation to the loss of universal — and Olympic — values of fairness, along with deepening concerns about politicization of sports among the broader public. The government’s push for a united Olympic hockey team has backfired. Many citizens complain about the liberal administration’s top-down demand that our athletes hand over their precious opportunities to play to unknown North Korean counterparts. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon’s remark — that our women’s ice hockey team is unlikely to get a medal anyway — fueled their sense of deprivation. Citizens were disappointed by the government viewing the athletes as but actors in an otherwise thrilling Olympic drama.
The government said it would minimize the damage to our athletes by increasing the size of our team. But that’s not easy. The Swiss ice hockey team that competes with us in our first match objected to the idea of allowing our single team to have more players than the rule on the grounds that it distorts the competition. If other countries follow suit, our hockey players may see their chances to play disappear.
The two Koreas also agreed to stage a joint performance on Mount Kumgang and joint training for skiers in North Korea. The Korea Ski Association expressed worries that a joint exercise with less than a month before the Games would not be worthwhile.
It is not easy to retract the inter-Korean agreement. But the government must humbly listen to the people. Moon proudly says his slogan is to respect the spirit of fairness. He knows that better than anyone else.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 19, Page 30