Jenna Gyimesi | Oberlin College
The Olympic representative of North Korea has reported that the nation will participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics. It is predicted that Chang Ung, the representative, will be finalizing negotiations with regard to the extent of North Korea's participation in the coming days. A meeting was held on January 9th to discuss how North Korean athletes will be transported to the Olympic events - the first meeting of its kind in two years.
Historically, the Olympic Games have united countries through competition. North Korea's participation in the upcoming Olympic Games, held in South Korea, could potentially improve relations and dialogues between the divided nations. The two countries have been separated by the world’s most militarized border for 65 years, or since the Korean War ended in 1953. The dialogue regarding the Winter Games has restored a suspended hotline between the Koreas that has been inactive since 2016.
North Korea's participation may also deescalate some tensions between North Korea and the United States. Most recently, the United States and South Korea have both agreed to postpone military exercises until after the sporting event transpires.
Many are skeptical of Kim Jong Un’s intentions. James Mattis, U.S. Defense Secretary, stated: “it's unclear whether the agreement was a real olive branch or a one-off from [Kim].” Japan's Defense Minister expressed similar sentiments. He articulated that North Korea has previously gone through false “phases of apparent dialogue and provocation.” He predicts that North Korea will continue to advance an aggressive weapons program. North Korea's participation may also allow North Korean officers to enter the South Korean border and potentially disrupt the Olympic event.
However, several academics predict that Kim Jong Un is unlikely to make military advancements to hinder the functioning of the games because of the dictators love for winter sports. Stephan Noerper of Columbia University articulated “He seems to – whether it’s his own inclination or born of his experience as a student in Switzerland – to like winter sports.” Kim supposedly attended boarding school in Switzerland but the duration of his stay is unknown.
The Winter Olympic Games will be held from February 9th through February 25th. The Olympics have long been an event that unifies the globe through competitive sport. In the upcoming month, the world will discover if the unifying effects of the Olympics will affect the growing tensions between North Korea and the nations threatened by its militarization.