Politics and the Olympics

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Politics and the Olympics

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A ceremony in Jan. 2018 for security personnel in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics, 50 miles from the border with the North. This editorial used the related article “Protecting an Olympics Held in North Korea’s Nuclear Shadow” as a source.CreditEd Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By The Learning Network

We are honoring each of the Top 10 winners of our Fifth Annual Student Editorial Contest by publishing an essay a day. You can find them all here.

Below, an essay by Joanne Yang, age 15.

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For the first time in sixty years, the two Koreas stood undivided. The Pyeongchang Olympics will be marked in history as a symbolic breakthrough for supposedly all Koreans bursting in patriotism. We even glorified it to the extent of shifting South Korea’s policies toward imminent reunification. But did one unified women’s hockey team and flag really alleviate the tensions in the Korean Peninsula? The sporting event may just be a red herring for what is truly happening behind the scenes.

Even with the romanticization of the Olympics, we should not let our guard down about Kim Jong-un’s ulterior motives. “The North may use the Games as a political propaganda opportunity to show that while they may be a nuclear power, they also want to have peace with their neighbors,” said Shin Beom-chul, an expert at Korea National Diplomatic Academy. It is patently obvious that the Winter Games in Pyeongchang were used merely as a “public image makeover” to gain political leverage while the status quo remains greatly unchanged. North Korea is not interested in diplomatically giving up its nuclear program or reunifying unless the conditions are favorable to Kim Jong-un and his regime.

Not only that, the Olympics did not revive the deteriorating relationship between the two countries and the increasingly obsolete concept of reunification. Being a Korean youth myself, I share the majority opinion that there is “more for [our] country to lose than to gain if the two Koreas become united.” Having grown up in an era demonizing North Korea under the conservative Saenuri Dang party, intimidated by the everyday prospect of nuclear war, and challenged by soaring unemployment rates in our country, we are skeptical of a unified Korea, let alone our capacity to accommodate its prodigious cost of $3 trillion.

Though talks of reconciliation have increased as seen in the changing language of the 2007 and 2000 inter-Korean summits, South Korea’s official policy treated it as the first step toward the final political scheme of reunification. But rather than treating reconciliation as a means to an end, what would treating it as the end do for lasting peace?

By eradicating the remnants of our symbolic dream of reunification, we can officially recognize North Korea as an autonomous country and diminish the necessity of its nuclear proliferation used as a deterrent for foreign invasion. Our adamant refusal to legitimize North Korea’s regime exacerbated its political insecurity to the brink of nuclear warfare.

South Korea should stop being fooled by the symbolic role the Olympics played and redirect its focus solely to reconciliation with a sovereign North Korea instead of clinging onto the abandoned dream of reunification.

Works Cited

Kim, Max. “The Korean Unification Flag Isn’t as Unifying as It Seems” The Atlantic, 9 Feb. 2018.

Lee, Cheoleon. “Gallup World Poll: Implications of Reunification of Two Koreas.” Gallup, 12 Oct. 2006.

This post was originally published here via Google News