South Korea attempts to alleviate tensions with North Korea through the Olympics

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On Feb. 9, 2018, the Winter Olympics is set to take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Among various events threatening South Korea’s stability over the past year, including political complications, preparations for the grand event are still moving forward. However, a challenge has arisen as North Korea continues its aggression with multiple ballistic missile tests.

Instead of taking a hostile approach to North Korea, President Moon hopes that through the Olympics, the two nations will foster a sense of unity. In times of North Korea’s continuing belligerence, President Moon opened the door for athletes from the North to participate in the Olympics.

In response to President Moon’s embracing outlook, two North Korean figure skaters, Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, have been officially qualified for the Olympics. As of now, whether North Korea will participate remains a question, but should the nation join, the athletes will be competing in the pair’s figure skating match.

“I think bringing South Korean and North Korean athletes together for the Olympics will cause further tensions between the two nations,” said Curtis Lee (11), MUN member. “Instead of hoping for resolutions with North Korea, I believe it is more reasonable for South Korea to focus more on the well being of its players and preparations for the Olympics.”

The Reuters report that South Korea is attempting to alleviate tensions with North Korea by appealing to the idea of sports because Kim Jong-un, the president of North Korea, has been noted for his admiration of sports. As in the past, sports are still being utilized by politicians to create or maintain friendly relationships. Specifically, President Trump, on his recent visit to Toyko, played golf with Prime Minister Abe and Hideki Matsuyama, a professional Japanese golfer, further tightening their amiable bond.

“I believe it is a good idea that President Moon is trying to better the relationship with North Korea through the Olympics,” said Leonard Lee (10), MUN member. “It is certainly true that sports play a big role in ameliorating relationships. To give an example of myself, whenever I play or watch a sport, I feel happier after. When I am not on the best terms with my friend, the conflict always gets solved immediately after a game of basketball.”

Contrary to President Moon’s rather friendly approach to North Korea’s menaces, Russia and the US, in times of conflicts in the 1980s, expressed outright disapproval towards each other by boycotting the Olympics each nation hosted. The US and 64 other nations, including Great Britain and Australia, boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980 as a means of protesting the Soviet Troops’ invading Afghanistan. In 1984, Russia took similar measures as it boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Rather than utilizing sports to lessen tensions, Russia and the US did the opposite; the two heightened the antagonism towards each other through boycotts.

“I do not think the boycotts were successful,” said Jim Gerhard, high school principal. “The true spirit of the Olympics is to be friendly and a good sport. Differences in political opinions do not mean that amicable relations between nations are impossible. It is best to distance political grudges from national sporting events.”

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Kirsten Huh

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