Competing nationalisms in Korea and the 2002 Busan Asian Games

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This paper examines the relations between North and South Korea at the 2002 Busan Asian Games. So far as inter-Korean relations are concerned, this particular sporting occasion is arguably the most significant sports mega-event that South Korea has ever hosted. For the first time in its history, North Korean athletes participated in an international competition held in South Korea. Before this time, due to the political and military conflict, the two Koreas had been reluctant to send its delegation to a sporting contest taken place in the other side of the border. In that sense, North Korea’s decision to take part in the Busan Asiad can be seen as a gesture of a meaningful political breakthrough. This also reflects an emerging mood of reconciliation between North and South Korea at that time. Understandably, unified Korean nationalism which emphasises the ethnic unity of the two sides and the historical necessity of the reunification frequently appeared during the Asian Games. At the same time, however, North Korean attendance aroused controversy over the use of the North Korean flag and anthem because the public display of the communist symbols in the South was illegal according to its national security law. This situation even led to the tension between conservative and liberal civic organisations in South Korea. These developments unfolding during the Asian Games demonstrate uncomfortable co-existence of organic and civic nationalisms in South Korea. The unbridgeable nature of two different types of nationalism still affects the political structure in the Korean Peninsula today.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2017
EventAAS-in-Asia: Asia in motion: Beyond borders and boundaries - Korea University, Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 24 Jun 201727 Jun 2017


Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of


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