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North and South Korea coming together for Winter olympics

North and South Korea agreed to hold talks at Panmunjom, the site of the 1953 Korean armistice, about the possibility of combining North Korea and South Korea into one olympic team for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. After hours of negotiation, the two countries emerged with a decision to march together in the opening ceremony with a unified flag of Korea. They also decided to combine their women’s ice hockey team. Along with their athletes, North Korea will send a delegation of cheerleaders, officials and journalists.  

Graphic by Jake Quatt of the Round Table

This sudden agreement was shocking for the whole world, especially South Koreans. Previous to the olympic meeting, there had been heightened tensions in the Korean peninsula due to North Korea’s nuclear missile tests and the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)

THAAD is a missile defence system which is supposed to protect South Koreans from North Korean missiles. However, the range of THAAD only covers the southern end of South Korea, where the American military bases are located. The Northern part of South Korea where Seoul is located is home to half of South Korea’s population, and remains vulnerable to both North Korea’s missiles and massive artillery. In addition, China is skeptical of THAAD because they see THAAD as a powerful radar that can spy on them.

Many South Koreans are also suspicious about the real intention of North Korea’s joint team proposal. The proposal seemed sudden, and many see the proposal as a non-genuine, political move.

This surprising move by the Kim Jong Un regime may stem from the pressure it feels from the international community and the new international sanctions against them. While some may see these actions as cooperation, South Koreans are not convinced and believe the Olympics will not help change North Korea’s view or actions.

South Koreans’ skepticisms were amplified after tensions rose once again between the two countries. North Korea decided that before its cheerleaders, officials and journalists arrive in PyeongChang, North Korea will hold a military parade to showcase its new Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM).

After this announcement, the North Korean government then said that the South Korean news presented North Korea’s plan in an offensive manner, which then caused North Korea to cancel the joint cultural performance between the two counties.

In addition, the South Korean Women’s Ice Hockey team think it’s unfair that the North Korean women are able to automatically join the team. The South Korean women on the ice hockey team have trained their whole lives for the Olympics, and now worry about having to give up their playing time.

With the North Koreans added on to the team, there is a total of 35 players. While the Olympic committee allowed for more players on the roster, only 23 players will be allowed to play. This means that some of the South Koreans who have dedicated their life to playing hockey will not be allowed to suit up.

The world will be watching the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea not only to root on their favorite athletes and countries, but to witness the complicated relationship between North and South Korea unfold.

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