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The Pyeongchang Olympics fuel unintended consequences in South Korea


On August 30, 2017, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) claimed that Pyeongchang, South Korea is ready to welcome the world to the 2018 Olympics. In fact, the huge preparations for this event, such as building great infrastructures like ski slopes, high-speed railways, and the Gangneung Ice arena, have given countless people high expectations for the upcoming games. However, although there are several benefits of hosting the Olympics, many people are still not aware of the consequences that exist.

Many concerning environmental problems are present due to the preparation of the Paralympics. While the Pyeongchang Olympics Committee (POC) promised to preserve the environment while preparing for the games, it failed to keep its promise. According to The Guardian, the committee not only removed numerous animals from their habitats in order to build huge facilities but also destroyed more than 58000 trees. Though the POC cannot be blamed fully for the ruination of the environment, it is still questionable whether such a large-scale degradation of the environment was really necessary for the preparation of the Olympics.

The Guardian further stated that in order to make up for the current environmental damage in the Gangneung area, the POC promised that they would replant more than a 1000 trees to restore the beauty of the mountains. However, this task is difficult, costly and most importantly, ineffective. The organizers of this Paralympics must realize that the rising costs put into preparing for the Olympics would prevent them from replanting all the trees. Rather, it would be more likely for the ski slopes to turn into a permanent tourist attraction instead. Furthermore, the chemicals used to treat the soil and snow would scar the grounds, making it difficult to replenish the mountains with natural resources. Thus, an impossible promise made by the POC would be broken to disappoint the citizens of Gangneung once again.

Apart from the severe environmental problems, political controversies regarding the Pyeongchang Olympics also rose as President Moon Jae-in announced his plan to ease tensions between North and South Korea through the upcoming Paralympics. In other words, President Moon suggested that despite the rising pressures on the Korean peninsula established by North Korea’s recent nuclear missile programs, a successful hosting of the Pyeongchang Olympics could decrease restlessness over security as well as universally show regional stability and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Of course, President Moon’s point is valid; as Pyeongchang is able to host better games, it is more likely that people will keep their mind off from the tensions occurring on the Korean peninsula. However, it is doubtful whether it is possible to completely eradicate the conflicts between the two Koreas through the Olympics like President Moon’s guarantee. In fact, his promise could simply fail to work out and disappoint numerous citizens after the failure to actually bring inter-Korean peace. With so many problems regarding the upcoming Olympics, is South Korea really ready to welcome the world as the IOC suggested a few months ago?

It is undeniable that the POC is diligently preparing for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics by not only inviting talented athletes from all around the world to compete in this event but also establishing new unique features in Gangneung such as the high-speed railroad. Nevertheless, what is important is not only whether people will enjoy themselves at the event. Rather, it is also essential for all of us to consider addressing the controversies regarding the Olympics.

Even if it may seem unlikely to tackle the several contentions regarding the Games, we must remember that hosting this huge event does not merely have its benefits, and take action as soon as possible to ease both the environmental and political controversies. As for the environmental concerns, we could start campaigns to destroy fewer trees instead of trying to replant the thousands of trees that were destroyed. In addition, for the political problems, efforts could be made to lessen the anxiety over current tensions between the two Koreas although it may not be possible to fully eradicate it. Both solutions may not work too effectively, but it is still likely that these methods of preserving the environment and lessening tensions on the Korean peninsula could prevent such problems from worsening.

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