Inter-Korean politics at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics: The unification that divides the nation

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Abstract

It seems that the 2018 Winter Olympics can be one of the most politicised Games ever held in the history of the Olympics. The relations between North and South Korea are at the centre of the political ramifications of the winter sports mega-event. On the New Year’s Day, North Korea announced rather unexpectedly its intention to take part in the Olympic Games to be held in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang. This announcement led to the resumption of the inter-Korean talks which had been halted for almost two years due to escalating political and military tensions. At the meetings, the two sides agreed to march together at the opening ceremony bearing the unified Korean flag and to weld a unified Korean women’s ice hockey team for the first time in its history. Certainly, displaying a unity at the Olympics is an important political breakthrough in consideration of the conflict-laden atmosphere surrounding the Korean peninsula until recently. However, people’s opinion on the sporting union at the Olympics is sharply divided in South Korea. As the Winter Olympics is approaching, the antipathy between ethnic (pro-reunification) and patriotic (anti-communist) nationalists are intensifying. A generation gap in Korean politics concerning the reunification and thereby about the formation of the unified Korean team at the Olympics is also deepening. Furthermore, the opposition parties in the South severely criticise the two Korean governments for exploiting the Olympic Games politically whereas the ruling party defends the current policy as the inter-Korean Olympic collaboration will promote peace in the Korean peninsula. In relation to the Olympic Games, therefore, the disagreement between different groups in South Korea appears to be more serious than the division between the two Koreas in the peninsula. With these issues in mind, this paper discusses the political implications of the Winter Olympic Games for the inter-Korean relations and for the domestic politics in the South.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2018
EventThe 12th Annual Conference of the PSA’s Sport and Politics specialist study group: Sport, Policy and Politics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives - Stirling University, Stirling , United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Mar 201822 Mar 2018

Conference

ConferenceThe 12th Annual Conference of the PSA’s Sport and Politics specialist study group
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityStirling
Period21/03/1822/03/18

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