North and South Korea have decided that they will march under one unified flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The Korean nations also agreed to form a joint women’s hockey team.
The two nations have had a long history of conflict since the Korean War in the early 1950s. After the war, Korea was divided into two nations along the 38th parallel. The Soviet Union imposed a communist government in North Korea, and the United States imposed a nationalist/capitalist government in South Korea.
Tensions between the two nations have been high ever since the war, but this act of unity may show a reconciliation of tension. North and South Korea’s representatives will march at the opening ceremony behind a unified Korean flag that represents an undivided Korean Peninsula.
Sun-Hee Kil is from South Korea, and is an assistant professor in the theatre arts department at SUNY New Paltz. Kil is currently working as a sound designer at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
“Olympics exist to deliver the message of peace to everybody on this Earth,” Kil said. “This unified team and athletes parade will deliver the great message to all the human beings.”
The games will begin Friday, Feb. 9, and the first combined Korean team for the Olympics will be the women’s ice hockey team. North Korea will send about 230 supporters to the games, and negotiators from both of the Koreas agreed that supporters of both countries will root together for athletes from both countries, according to The New York Times.
The two countries have marched together several times since 2000, including the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. They marched together in Athens in 2004 and at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy. The last time they marched together was 11 years ago, in the Asian Winter games of 2007.
This is not the first time the two countries have tried to use sports as a reconciliation, but this will be the first time the two nations have had a unified team since the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships.
The two countries’ history of unification through sports has struggled to improve tensions throughout the years. We don’t know if this Winter Olympics will be the time where relations between the two countries head in a more positive direction, but this unification does leave optimism in the air for both Korean countries.