Stoking divisionA 500-person-strong North Korean delegation will cross the border to attend the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February under an agreement made by the two Koreas during the first inter-Korean dialogue in nearly two years. Athletes and coaches from both sides of the 38th Parallel will march side-by-side during the opening ceremony on Feb. 9 under a neutral flag bearing the Korean Peninsula. Additionally, South and North Korea will compete as a united team in women’s ice hockey.
The delegation from North Korea will be the biggest ever. It includes a 140-member performing troupe and 230-person cheering squad. The two Koreas will be making their joint entrance under the neutral flag for the 10th time since the 2000 Sydney Olympics. South Korea has asked the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation to allow the South Korean team to keep its roster of 23 and add several North Korean players so as not to strip chances for local players.
The overall framework for North Korean participation in the PyeongChang Games is complete. Despite the feat, the government has been unsophisticated in its dealings with opposition and protests against the decision. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon angered the team and fans with his casual comment that less competent North Koreans joining the team would not make a big difference because the South Korean team does not have a big chance of winning a medal in women’s ice hockey. Choo Mi-ae, head of the ruling Democratic Party, said it is wrong for people to criticize a peaceful Olympics that even Washington and Beijing support.
We cannot be innocently moved by the sight of a united flag because of the real threat of North Korea. President Moon Jae-in underscored that a joint team would be a historic scene, but why the ice hockey team has to be sacrificed has not been fully explained.
The delegation will be coming to the South by land along the West Sea, but it has been proposed by the North that the troupe of female entertainers cross the border at Panmunjom. North Korea may wish to highlight the charms of its female cheerleaders and performers. We welcome a harmonious Olympics, but we must not over-glorify North Korean participation, which could stoke division among the South Korean people.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 18, Page 34