Tess Hemmila—Staff Writer
After a long period of waiting, North Korea has officially committed to participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The games are being held in the neighboring county of Pyeongchang, South Korea.
North Korea has had turbulent relations with their southern neighbors in the past. South Korea has been repeatedly selected to host major sporting events over North Korea. According to The New York Times, choosing Seoul as the location for the 1988 Summer Olympics was seen by North Korea as “an affront to their national dignity.”
In response, the North “shunned” the 1988 Games and attempted to sabotage them via a terrorist attack on a Korean Air plane which killed all 115 passengers, according to The New York Times. Despite the attack, the 1988 Seoul Olympics continued as planned and were highly successful.
However, many are hoping that the 2018 Winter Olympics may be helpful in relieving some of the tension between the North and South. In an act of what has been termed “sports diplomacy,” the International Olympic Committee has allowed a total of 22 North Korean athletes to participate despite missing the deadline to register athletes.
Some of the most anticipated North Korean athletes to attend the Seoul Olympics are figure skaters Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik. The pair placed 15th at the world skating championships last year and are “expected to represent the height of sporting aspirations for North Korea,” according to The New York Times.
“The Olympic spirit is about respect, dialogue and understanding,” said International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. “The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula, and inviting the world to join in a celebration of hope.”
In the spirit of unity and peace, North and South Korea will be permitted to march together under the name “Korea” at the Opening Ceremony, according to the International Olympic Committee. In addition, North Korea will send 12 players to unite with the South Korean Women’s Hockey team of 23 players. The hockey team will compete under the Korean Unification Flag and be referred to as Korea.
“We need somewhere where it’s not all about opposing governments,” said Political Science professor Jeff Taylor. “I see this as a way of saying, on a human level, that through sports we can acknowledge what we have in common.”
Other Dordt faculty members have come to the same conclusion about the present interactions between to two countries.
“I think that if sports can be used to work towards a more perfect peace, then I’m all for it,” said English professor Howard Schaap.