By Sarah Shepp
On January 2, 2018, South Korea invited North Korea to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics that will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February. South Korea has offered high-level talks with North Korea that are scheduled to take place on Tuesday, January 9th, to discuss North Korea’s possible participation in the Games. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stated that the two countries should “urgently meet to discuss the possibility” and South Korean President Moon Jae-in said this would be “a ground breaking chance” to improve relations between the two countries.
North and South Korea have been at war with each other since 1950 when North Korea’s leader Ki II-sung invaded South Korea triggering the Korean War. The Korean War ended in 1953 when an armistice was signed and a heavily armed border was created between the two states. Since 1953, the two countries have still been at war and do not have a diplomatic relationship.
The intention of the North and South to meet to discuss the Winter Olympics is a significant step in developing peace and diplomatic relations between the two countries. North and South Korea have not entered into talks with one another since December of 2015. Additionally, in 2017, relations between North and South Korea suffered increasing tensions because of the North’s significant progress in its nuclear missile programs. North Korea’s testing of missiles not only strained the country’s relationship with the South but also with the United States and other Western countries.
The talks next week will likely occur at Panmunjom. This so called “truce village” is located in the heavily guarded demilitarized zone where the Koreas have historically held their talks. The anticipated conversations of these talks will regard the route the North Koreans will take to enter South Korea and about whether the two states will issue a joint declaration confirming North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games. Only two athletes, figure skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik from North Korea qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics. North Korea missed the official deadline to confirm their participation at the Pyeongchang Games, however the skaters could still compete with an invitation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The IOC supports the talks between North and South Korea and has been communicating with the National Olympic Committee of North Korea to ensure the skater’s participation in the Games. North Korea has never attended an Olympics in South Korea. Therefore, the prospect of the North attending the Pyeongchang Games next month is a historic step forward in establishing peace between North and South Korea.
BBC- North Korea: South proposes Olympics delegation talks, January 2, 2018, available at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42538323.
Express- North and South Korea: When did they split? Why were they at war?- May 16. 2017, available at https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/805398/North-Korea-split-South-border-DMZ-Kim-Jong-un-Kim-Il-sung-Korean-war-conflict-USA