The next step

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The next step

The PyeongChang journey over the last 17 days had been exhilarating. Witnessing athletes pushing their limits and celebrating their defeats and wins has touched the hearts of every viewer. Political disputes over a hurriedly formed joint hockey team and the presence of North Korean latecomers did not impair the true sportsmanship and human drama of an Olympics event. South Koreans showed off how much they have matured beyond the sports field.

South Korea ended the PyeongChang Olympics in seventh, fetching five gold, eight silver and four bronze medals. Although falling short of its goal, Team Korea achieved its best-ever record at the Winter Olympics. They excelled not only in their traditionally strong fields on the ice, but added medals in curling, sliding and snowboarding.

Koreans became the first Asians to win a silver in skeleton and bobsled. Korea won a medal at a snow event — Alpine snowboarding — for the first ever. The women’s curling team’s ascension to a silver-medal finish was truly a movie-like drama. Longtime rivals Lee Sang-hwa of Korea and Nao Kodaira of Japan comforting one another and celebrating their years on the rink after taking home a silver and gold respectively delivered one of the most memorable scenes.

The PyeongChang Olympics had also been an awakening call for the rest of society. The political agreement forcing North Koreans into the South Korean female hockey team without prior consultation raised questions of fairness and drew strong criticism from young people against the government for victimizing individualism for a political purpose. Their uproar underscored the gap between the generations. The chronic fractional feud of the Korea Skating Union caused disastrous results at the women’s speed skating team pursuit.

The two Koreas walked side-by-side at the closing ceremony as they had done at the opening event. Regardless of earlier disputes, audiences heartily enjoyed every sport and cheered for every athlete.

The problem is the aftermath. We need to find ways to utilize the Olympics facilities well and continue to support the less popular sports. The host province must not end up saddled with debt. Young athletes should no longer be victimized by the feud among coaches and authorities.

The truce between the two Koreas during the Olympics should extend to lasting peace. North Korea squeezed out its charm offensive and the South Korean government came under criticism for playing up to the North. All could turn out to be another propaganda stunt by Pyongyang if there are no concrete moves toward easing tension and ensuring peace after the Olympics.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 26, Page 30
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