Is a Combined Korean Olympics Team a Sign of Peace?

by: The Knowledge Group

January 22, 2018


Anyone who has been watching the news with even a half interest knows how politically hot things are in the Korean Peninsula, especially with all the saber-rattling language that has been going on in the last few months between the government of North Korea and the United States. That said, such postering has occurred repeatedly before, and oftentimes it has covered up behind the scenes negotiations that eventually deflate the hot words in practice.

The latest Olympics are arriving in the meantime and in the midst of all the line-drawing in the sand and hot words is an announcement that the two Koreas will be combining their winter teams for the Games. The statement is groundbreaking as the idea of even standing next to each other for decades has been untouchable to date. In an effort to build diplomacy starting with the least military aspect possible, the two countries have engaged with the idea of a unified team, allowing both Koreas’ teams to play side-by-side versus other countries in the world.

It would be foolhardy to think that something as unrelated as the Olympics is going to automatically resolve the Korean Peninsula tensions. However, what is said and what is done and the difference between the two has frequently been a signal on whether tensions are actually decreasing versus what appears on the television screen. That North Korea even entertained the idea of merged team is considered by many a move forward to reconciliation and away from saber-rattling. But there is always a motivation for such an action and that should be the followup question: what was part of this move behind the scenes as a trade.

As experienced diplomatic officers will advice, watch and observe. How the North Korea behaves says as much as what they will posture verbally on TV, if not more. Whether the U.S. political machine can rise to the same level of nuance understanding is another matter.

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