Winter Olympics must prove a winner for all sides
As the Games begin focus may have shifted to the involvement of North Korea and its reasons for doing so, but it is always worth taking a chance on peace
It is day one of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and already many South Korean hosts are asking, whose Games are they anyway? So successful has North Korea been in diverting the limelight, that politically they are easily confused with the Pyongyang games.
Since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un revealed his interest in sending a delegation to the Olympics only six weeks ago, the thawing of ties frozen for two years has spread from participation by the North to an agreement to resume military consultation and solve problems through dialogue. Now observers are on standby for contacts between the United States and the North on the sidelines of the Games.
Twenty-two North Korean athletes will compete in the Olympics and at today’s opening ceremony the two Koreas will march under a single flag. As a result, amid simmering nuclear tension between the North and the US, the international news spotlight has refocused on a potential new avenue for a peaceful resolution.
The North, contrary to its dour hermit image, has projected sincerity by deploying female star power in the South, first with Hyon Song-wol, leader of Pyongyang’s most popular girl band, and now with senior party official Kim Yo-jong, the 28-year-old sister of Kim Jong-un, who makes her debut on the world stage as part of a top delegation to the opening ceremony.
With US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka representing him, the media have not missed the prospect of female peacemaking between the superpower and the nuclear upstart. Given the failure of conventional diplomacy to defuse tension, any conversation, however unusual, between North and South and the US that followed a more peaceful direction would be welcome. After all, the hosts have dubbed the games the peace Olympics.
That said, South Korean President Moon Jae-in must be mindful that his reaching out to the North does not resonate with sentiment among the young in the South towards reunification, compared with the resolution of livelihood issues. And we have seen the North respond to overtures before, only for its actions to fail to live up to its words. But given what is at stake for the peace and prosperity of the region and the world, the risk of a repeat is worth taking.