Come From Away: South Korea to march with North Korea at Olympics

    (Anna Sirois/AQ)

    South Korea is geared up and ready to host the PyeongChang Winter Olympics this year, and will march under a “unification flag” with North Korea to encourage peace between the two nations.

    Whanboo Shim, a student from Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is prouder than ever.

    Shim was at STU from 2012 to 2015, then served in the South Korean military for two years. Men between the ages of 18 to 35 must perform two years of compulsory military service in South Korea.

    He returned again to STU for another two years to major in media studies and communications.
    He will be graduating this year.

    Shim grew up around a high-tension atmosphere between the relations of North Korea and his country.

    “North Korea would always provoke South Korea and would say things like, ‘If you don’t do A then consequence B will happen,’” Shim said.

    This year will mark the first ever Winter Olympics held in South Korea.

    In celebration of hosting, South Korea has invited and agreed to let North Korea participate in the games with it.

    The last Olympic Games held in South Korea were the Summer Olympic Games in 1988, in the capital of Seoul.

    North Korea wanted to co-host the Olympics in 1988 with South Korea, but given their tense relationship with the country, many countries feared athletes, tourists and officials would not have free movement.

    North Korea boycotted the Winter Olympic games in 1984 in Los Angeles, then in 1988 in Seoul, as an act against good relations between it and its southern neighbour.

    In 1987, two North Koreans blew up a Korean Airlines plane that killed 115 in attempt to stop the Seoul 1988 Summer Olympic Games. That act led to even deeper divides between the two countries.

    Thirty years later, on Feb. 9, North Korea and South Korea will march under the same flag for the Winter Olympic Games, with a light blue map of the Korean peninsula on it to represent the two countries.

    “Many disagree with it,” Shim said. “But I think for peace, it is good.”

    They will play a Korean folk song as well, instead of their national anthems to represent peace and unification.

    “It’s a privilege to host the Olympic games,” Shim said.

    “I am proud and South Korea is proud of this honour.”

    North Korea has been feared for its possession of many nuclear-weapons and threats against other nations.

    If they agree to put a pause on missile interrogations, then there’s hope for the future that the two countries can exchange positive dialect again after eight years of North Korea disengaging with the Winter Olympic Games in the past.

    According to the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism of South Korea, only a little over five per cent of South Koreans have said they are not willing to buy a ticket to attend the PyeongChang Winter Games.

    The South Korean government is encouraging businesses to hand out tickets to their employees to try and get more people to go and to make more events available.

    Because of North Korea’s participation in the games with South Korea, more seats will be filled by Koreans and they will have more of an interest in going.

    North Korea’s participation in the games has brought more positive and non-controversial international attention to PyeongChang, South Korea, where there’s been little attention before.

    After this year’s Winter Olympic Games, the whole world will be watching and hoping for a positive change between the tensions with North Korea.

    “I would like to watch the Olympics in my country, but I am here.”


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