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North Korea’s participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is something to celebrate

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Thunderous applause erupted in the audience attending the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, when Korean athletes, brandishing the unified flag of North and South Korea, walked together during the opening ceremony held and streamed worldwide on Feb. 9, 2018.

Many people across the world oppose the brief unification of North and South Korea for the Olympics, but I think it has the potential to do more good than harm.

Korea has been split up into the North and South regions for the past 73 years, since the end of World War II. In those past seven decades, the two countries have had a strained relation, although the North proposes they unify for economic reasons (Huffington Post). During this time, many South Korean people have expressed different desires regarding unification or accepting North Korean people as a whole, as North Korea has been especially hostile towards them historically.

North Korea and South Korea have extremely different forms of governing, with a dictatorship under Kim Jong-un in the North, and a Republic under Moon Jae-In in the South. The differing governments between the two has resulted in dozens of conflict over the past few decades (Pri). For this reason, with increasing military technology, unification between the North and the South is so important, even if brief.

The North Korean people have had their voices suppressed for 72 years, since Kim Il-Sung’s rise to power in 1946 after the end of World War II. Therefore, a large population of North Korea has been put on mute their entire lives, making this Olympics the first time many North Korean children will get to hear about a role model to look up to and aspire to be like, assuming they become aware of a North Korea athlete winning a gold, silver or bronze medal.

North Korean citizens have little access to television. The few citizens who do have a television set in their homes are only provided with a few hours of television programs a day due to the lack of energy in the North. Most of these hours are filled with propaganda and heavily biased news programs. Amidst these programs, the Pyeongchang Olympics are being broadcasted, although they remain heavily restricted. Most of the competition is left hidden to the North Korean public, as to not remind them of the fact that South Korea lives well enough to host an Olympics (New York Times).

Personally, I rooted for North Korea. I prefer to think about it like this: which country would have benefit more from winning a medal? Think about the children and other vulnerable people living in each country participating, who, out of all of them, would be filled with the most hope? Who deserves that hope more? Put aside your feelings for Kim Jong-un, and consider the talented athletes who play no part in how their government functions and interacts with other countries.

Including North Korea in the Olympics this year was a hot button issue for American people and Korean people alike. North Korea did not win any medals, but it matters less how well they did, and more that they were actually chosen to participate, and be a role model for the children of North Korea. Personally, I feel as though their inclusion will ignite hope in the hearts of the North Korean people and hopefully change the hearts of South Korean people who are against unification. Allowing North Korea to participate in the Olympics was not only fair to the athletes who have put their entire hearts into their routines, but also to the citizens of North Korea who deserve hope in this time of turmoil.

 

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North Korea’s participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is something to celebrate