PyeongChang ‘Peace Olympics’: Korean nation’s profound desire for peace and reunification sets tone

Photo shows joint Korean delegation entering PyeongChang Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony, February 9, 2018, ending the parade of nations. The Korean Unification Flag takes centre stage and flashes across the stadium seats with the name “Korea.”

A great sense of excitement surrounded the opening ceremonies of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics with a united north and south Korean delegation participating under the Unification Flag.

The stage was set a month before the games began, at the inter-Korean talks on January 9 to promote national reconciliation and reunification and solve all problems between themselves through bilateral dialogue and negotiations, and to dissipate mounting tensions due to U.S. threats to disrupt the Olympics with fire and fury. Representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) took the decision to “proactively cooperate in ensuring that the 23rd Winter Olympics and Paralympics in the south side area will be successfully held, providing an occasion for enhancing the prestige of the [Korean] nation,” ultimately resulting in a large DPRK delegation being sent to the games and the two Koreas marching as one in the opening ceremony, among other initiatives.

Both sides have gone all out to realize this decision, contributing greatly to reducing tensions created by the U.S. imperialists, Canada and others who are meddling in the relations between the DPRK and ROK.

The Korean people’s own aim for peace and reunification, free from outside interference, has prevailed and set the tone and ensured that these Olympics will be known from now on as the “Peace Olympics.”

These PyeongChang Games are the 23rd Winter Olympics and feature 102 events in 15 sports, with the participation of nearly 3,000 athletes from 92 countries and territories. It is the first Winter Olympics held in the Republic of Korea and its second Olympics overall, the first being the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

Opening ceremonies

The opening ceremony took place at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on the evening of February 9, with 35,000 people in attendance.

The joint presence of the athletes and leadership from the ROK and DPRK was the highlight of the opening ceremony, while the performances on stage recounted Korean mythology, history and culture, and focused on the themes of peace and harmony, with brilliance and technological prowess.

Performers dressed in traditional costume danced for the thousands of spectators attending the opening ceremony.

Performers dressed in traditional costume danced for the thousands of spectators attending the opening ceremony.

The sincere aspirations of the Korean people to unite their divided nation made short shrift of the views repeated ad nauseam by the imperialist press that the united presence of the ROK and DPRK athletes was a short-lived “manipulation” or “charm offensive” by the DPRK.

Highlights included the Parade of Nations, with Greece leading the way as the historic founding nation of the Olympics, followed by all the other countries in alphabetical order according to the Korean language. The parade concluded with the 180 athletes from the DPRK and ROK marching as one behind the Unification Flag, to the accompaniment of the Korean folk song Arirang, the anthem of reunification in both north and south. They received a standing ovation.

Above, photo shows joint Korean delegation entering PyeongChang Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony, February 9, 2018, ending the parade of nations. The Korean Unification Flag takes centre stage and flashes across the stadium seats with the name “Korea.” The Korean delegation was led by flag bearers Hwang Chung Guam of the DPRK, a member of the unified Korean women’s hockey team, and ROK bobsledder Won Yun-jong.

The joint presence of the athletes and leadership from the ROK and DPRK was the highlight of the opening ceremony, while the performances on stage recounted Korean mythology, history and culture, and focused on the themes of peace and harmony, with brilliance and technological prowess.

The sincere aspirations of the Korean people to unite their divided nation made short shrift of the views repeated ad nauseam by the imperialist press that the united presence of the ROK and DPRK athletes was a short-lived “manipulation” or “charm offensive” by the DPRK.

President of the ROK Moon Jae-in (front left); First Lady Kim Jung-sook (front right); Kim Yong Nam, President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK (back left); and Kim Yo Jong, First Vice Director of the DPRK’s Workers’ Party Central Committee and head of the DPRK’s delegation to the Olympics (back right). The visit to the ROK by such a high-level delegation from the DPRK is the first since the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.

The hope of the peoples of the world for peace on the Korean Peninsula was officially expressed by the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach. After extending greetings to all those present and calling for good sportsmanship, he significantly highlighted the unifying role of sports and the role the Olympics can play to nurture peace:

“A great example of this unifying power [of the Olympics] is the joint march here tonight of the two teams from the National Olympic Committees of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We thank you.

“All the athletes around me, all the spectators here in the stadium, and all Olympic fans watching around the world, we are all touched by this wonderful gesture. We all join and support you in your message of peace.

“United in our diversity, we are stronger than all the forces that want to divide us.

“Two years ago in Rio de Janeiro, with the first ever Refugee Olympic Team, the IOC sent a powerful message of hope to the world. Now in PyeongChang, the athletes from the teams of the ROK and DPRK, by marching together, send a powerful message of peace to the world.”

ROK President Moon Jae-in then officially opened the games. Two members of the united Korean women’s hockey team, Park Jong-ah of the ROK and Jong Su Hyon of the DPRK, had the honour of jointly carrying the Olympic torch up a majestic flight of stairs before handing it over to the heroine of Korean sport, Olympic medalist and world champion figure skater Kim Yuna from the ROK, who lit the Olympic cauldron.

Unified Korean women’s hockey team

The DPRK cheerleaders warm up the crowd before the Korea-Switzerland
women’s hockey game, February 10, 2018.

For the first time in 65 years, south and north Korean athletes are playing in a unified Olympic team, the women’s ice hockey team. The 35-member squad includes 15 players from the DPRK. The players from the ROK include players who hold dual Korean-Canadian and Korean-U.S. citizenship. The unified team is coached by Canadian Sarah Murray. The players from north and south were brought together only 10 days before their first scheduled game.

Korean-Canadian player Caroline Park said of the unified team, “I think at first you’re not sure what to expect. You hear a lot from the news and you don’t know what’s going on, but I think that when [the north Koreans] got here, they kind of exceeded our expectations. The players are just so, so nice and they’re just so eager to learn.”

Feb 10, 2018; Gangneung, South Korea; ROK president Jae-in Moon; IOC president Thomas Bach; DPRK head of state Kim Long Nam; and Kimm Yo-jong pose for a picture with the women’s hockey team from Korea after women’s ice hockey Group B play against Switzerland in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre. Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports

At a practice match on February 4, in the lead-up to the games, 1,600 south Koreans cheered the unified team in a practice match against Sweden. Waving the Unification Flags, they chanted, “Our country – reunification! One Korea!”

Skiers participate in a joint training session at the Masik Pass Resort in the DPRK on February 2.

Participation of delegation from the DPRK

The DPRK cheerleaders out in full force at the opening ceremony.

Two hundred and eighty members of the DPRK delegation arrived in south Korea on February 7. The contingent included Minister of Physical Culture and Sports Kim Il-guk and three other members of the DPRK’s National Olympic Committee, 229 cheerleaders, 26 members of a taekwondo demonstration team and 21 reporters.

With broad smiles the cheerleaders greeted reporters and confidently said of their aim, “We’re here to bring about unification.” Asked what kind of routines they would perform, one of them responded, “You’ll have to wait and see. It wouldn’t be any fun to spoil the surprise!” Others assured their cheering would be “full of energy and spirit.”

Minister Kim Il-guk said, “Let’s all work together to do a good job at the games.”

“I’m glad that the Winter Olympics are being successfully held through the cooperation of north and south Korea,” said Kim Myong-chol, a member of the DPRK’s National Olympic Committee. “I hope that the north and south Korean athletes will get good results during the games.”

The Moranbong Band and Samjiyon Art Troupe perform in Gangneung, February 8, 2018.

The DPRK’s Moranbong Band and Samjiyon Art Troupe comprised of 140 performers arrived February 6 by ship, under an exemption from the sanctions regime. On February 8, they held a performance at the 998-seat Saimdang Hall of the Gangneung Arts Centre. The south Korean government invited members of families divided by the Korean War and the socially disadvantaged to attend, while 560 seats were reserved for ordinary citizens chosen by lottery. Some 150,000 people are said to have applied online for those seats.

The Hankyoreh informs that the last time a DPRK cheerleading team visited south Korea was 12-and-a-half years ago, at the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon. It also informs that previous such delegations have been very well-received in the south:

“The first time that a North Korean cheerleading squad visited South Korea was the 2002 Asian Games in Busan. From the moment they arrived in Busan’s Dadaepo Harbor on the Mangyongbong 92 ship on Sept. 28, before the games’ opening ceremony, they were the talk of the town. More than 2,000 South Korean well-wishers had gathered at the harbor and welcomed them under the Unification Flag, while more than 280 North Korean cheerleaders, wearing variously colored hanbok (traditional Korean attire), smiled broadly and waved at them.

“As soon as the ship reached the dock, a North Korean brass band, complete with drummers and fife players, played the North Korean song ‘Pangapsumnida’ (‘Nice to Meet You’), while the South Korean crowd responded by shouting the slogan, ‘The unified fatherland.’ During an interview with the Hankyoreh at the closing ceremony of those Asian Games, one of the cheerleaders said, ‘We appreciate the compliments about our beauty, but we would rather you see us as envoys to South Korea for unification than as beautiful women.’“

General Association of Korean Residents in Japan delegation

On February 8, a 100-person delegation from the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) arrived in south Korea to take part in the PyeongChang Olympics. The Hankyoreh informs that this is the first time in 16 years that Chongryon has sent such a delegation to south Korea.

Besides the overseas Koreans arriving from Japan, many others living in the U.S., Canada and Europe arrived February 8 and 9.

Activists for Peace and Reunification hold action at U.S. Embassy

In Seoul on February 5, activists with Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea (SPARK), held a picket and press conference in front of the U.S. Embassy. They specifically denounced the U.S. plans for a “bloody nose” pre-emptive military strike on the DPRK, saying that this would only exacerbate the situation and lead to an all-out war. They reiterated that dialogue and negotiations are the only means to resolve tensions and the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and urged the U.S. to engage in dialogue with the DPRK. Later on February 9, the CBC used a small staged anti-DPRK action outside the opening ceremonies as an excuse to promote the U.S. imperialists’ virulent aim to attack the DPRK and undermine  Korean reunification.

Koreans in U.S. welcome PyeongChang Games as “Peace Olympics”

The U.S. June 15 Committee for Reunification of Korea organized a day of coordinated peace marches in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago on February 4 to show support for the joint initiatives by the DPRK and ROK at the PyeongChang Olympics. Participants reiterated the demand that peace on the Korean Peninsula requires the U.S. sign a peace treaty with the DPRK and remove its troops from Korea. A statement issued by the committee decried attempts by the U.S. government and conservative media in south Korea to present the inter-Korean efforts for peace and reunification at the Olympics as “north Korean manipulation,” adding, “We in the U.S. cannot sit idly by and look on with hope and anxiousness. We have to do what we can to ensure that the PyeongChang Olympics successfully embodies a ‘Peace Olympics.’ And so even though we are Koreans living overseas, we aim to show our support of the PyeongChang Peace Olympics through peace marches. This is our symbolic gesture of support for our fellow Koreans of the North and South actively working to cooperate with one another.”

New York City

In New York, the peace march began in front of the Permanent Mission of the ROK to the UN, where the committee delivered a bouquet of flowers to a representative of the mission. The crowd then proceeded to the Permanent Mission of the DPRK to the UN, where they were received by Ja Song-nam, the DPRK’s Ambassador to the UN. He expressed his gratitude and hope that the PyeongChang Olympics will contribute to “improving relations between north and south Korea towards reunification.” Ja joined the peace marchers in singing Arirang.

Chicago

Marchers gather at a war memorial in Gallery Park, Chicago.

Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, the march brought together Korean American and peace/anti-war organizations. Korean drummers led the march while more than 100 participants chanted, “Korea is one!”

Plans to continue historic Inter-Korean summits

President Moon, Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong head to a luncheon meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, February 10, 2018.

A luncheon meeting between ROK President Moon; Kim Yo Jong, head of the DPRK’s delegation to the Olympics and First Vice Director of the DPRK’s Workers’ Party Central Committee; Kim Yong Nam, President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK; and others was held February 10, where the focus was inter-Korean relations. Kim Yo Jong delivered to President Moon a handwritten letter from DPRK leader Kim Jong Un formally inviting him to Pyongyang at the “earliest date possible,” to which Moon responded positively, saying, “Let us make it happen by creating the necessary conditions in the future.”

The last such summit took place October 2, 2007, between then-ROK President Roh Moo-hyun and the late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il.

“An early resumption of dialogue between the United States and the north is needed also for the development of the south-north Korean relationship,” President Moon added, a spokesman said.

A spontaneous joint practice of north and south Korean speed skaters takes place at Gangneung Ice Arena, February 8, 2018.

Meanwhile, the U.S. appears nonplussed by the dialogue between the DPRK and ROK. News media have commented that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, head of his country’s Olympic delegation, has been assiduously avoiding contact with members of the DPRK delegation.

In that vein, he left an Olympic dinner hosted by President Moon on February 8 shortly after arriving, where he was to have shared a table with Kim Yong Nam. On February 9, he refused to acknowledge the presence of Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong at the opening ceremonies, though seated practically in front of them. While the entire stadium was seen to give a standing ovation to the joint Korean delegation as it marched through the stadium behind the Unification Flag, Pence pointedly remained seated.

(With files from the IOC, Hankyoreh, SPARK, Zoom in Korea. Photos: Yonhap News, Hankyoreh, China Daily, Tongil News, OhmyNews, Korean Peace Alliance, U.S. June 15 Committee for Reunification of Korea, J.M. Park, agencies)

TML Weekly, February 10, 2018 – No. 5

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