On North Korea’s Participation in Winter Olympics

On North Korea’s Participation in Winter Olympics
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By Akeel Rashid

The Winter Olympic Games in Pyongchang (South Korea) are being held against the backdrop of the issue of climate change – a global phenomenon which threatens future winter Olympics but, on the other hand, the ongoing winter sports event has revived hope among global peacemakers and Korean people for a much-needed breakthrough in South and North Korean tumultuous relations. For the athletes, South Korea is hosting Winter Olympics but for political experts and diplomats, the country has bought temporary peace for the Korean Peninsula in exchange of Kim Jong Un’s demands.
History suggests that participation of North Korea in Pyongchang Olympics is vital for peaceful conduct of this International athletic event. In the year 1987, twelve months before the summer games were scheduled in Seoul, North Korea had detonated a bomb in a South Korean airliner that killed all 115 people aboard. One of the agents who was held responsible for this grievous act told investigators that the aim of the offence was to disrupt the games by creating fear among the contingent of athletes and spectators. Also, in the year 2002, when South Korea and Japan co-hosted the soccer World cup, North Korea sank a South Korean patrol boat in disputed waters that resulted in the death of six sailors. Given the savage history of North Korea towards game-hosting in South Korea, it was not wise for the latter to take a chance by not inviting North Korea to the winter Olympic Games. The participation of nuclear power North Korea that has presented itself more powerful than before, acts as a security assurance for the athletes of 92 nations who are participating in the Pyongchang winter Olympics.
What North Korea intends to achieve by participating in the Pyongchang Olympics
With the Kim Jong Un regime already facing an intense aversion across the globe, the non-participation of North Korea would have further alienated the nation from rest of the world. The approach of North Korea towards its participation in Pyongchang Olympics cannot be perceived as all-demanding but it is a tacit act of giving in too. North Korea’s willingness to take part in some of the games along with South Korea and also its decision to march under one flag with the latter are some of the demands being fulfilled by the South Korea but, at the same time, such mutually-agreed acts can be arguably taken as the compromise of Kim Jong Un, who is accustomed to a pugnacious attitude otherwise.
North Korea has yielded cleverly to the International sanctions by employing the use of months long quiet diplomacy with South Korea and above all by using its ‘charm offensive’ of sending cheerleaders to the Olympic event. Kim Jong Un has also sent her younger sister Kim Jo Yong on a three day Olympic-related visit to Pyongchang and on the very first day of her visit, she as acted as a messenger for her brother Kim Jong Un by expressing the willingness of North Korean Supreme Leader to meet the President of South Korea. The move is aimed at sidelining the involvement of United States in the affairs the two Koreas.
With Kim Jong Un apparently being able to bring South Korea on his terms by not letting the latter to pressurize him to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for his ‘Sports Diplomacy’ contour, North Korea has successfully closed a possible front in its immediate neighborhood

—The author is a student of International Relations, IUST, Awantipora. He can be reached at: akeelsofi@gmail.com