Members of the Hopkins community are equally wary. Alessandro Amoedo ’20 said: “I think it’s a sign of weakness. It’s surprising that they are unifying because North Korea has terrorized South Korea and many other countries.” Josh Ip ’18 was also skeptical: “I just hope that they’re doing it in hopes of genuine change but I’m suspicious that North Korea is doing it just for show and nothing else.”
South Korea’s frst Winter Games comes after a year of violence, missile launches, and nuclear tests. In February, North Korea launched a ballistic missile in its frst missile test of 2017. Two days later, Kim Jongnam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, was brutally murdered in a Malaysian airport. In July, North Korea launched an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching Alaska. Septem ber brought a massive nuclear test, and, in November, a successful test of another powerful ICBM put all of America within the range of North Korean missiles.
Then, in his New Year’s Day address, Kim Jong-un proposed Olympic-based negotiations. South Korea suggested a formal meeting, which North Korea accepted. On January 9, 2018, representatives from
the two Koreas met in Panmunjom, a small village in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two nations.
The talks led to Olympic cooperation and an informal detente. North Korea sent 22 athletes to the Games, and, in a gesture of unity reminiscent of the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, the athletes from both Koreas marched under a single Korean fag at the February 9 Opening Ceremony. The Koreas will feld a joint women’s hockey team, coached by American Sarah Murray. North Korea will also send a cheering squad of 140 musicians and 230 cheerleaders to accompany the athletes. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach aptly summarized the hopeful mood engendered by such cooperation: “The Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula, and inviting the world to join in a celebration of hope,” Bach said.
Some Hopkins students have an optimistic outlook as well. Adwith Mukherjee ’19 said: “I think it’s a good sign that the two sides can put aside the differences if only to present amiability to the world.” Jay
Guo ’20 agreed. “It seems like North Korea’s offers for peace are genuine, and if they can go to the Olympics united with no troubles or scandal, it would be a really great step towards further reconciliation and possibly a more docile North Korea,” he said. Lauren Seto ’19 said, “I think it’s good that North Korea is competing because it is allowing more athletes to showcase their abilities to the world.”
More recently, however, North Korea backed out of a celebration of the Olympics, drawing widespread attention. The musical performance, slated for February 4 at scenic Mount Kumgang in North Korea, was intended to be a celebration of culture. But South Korean reporting prompted an offended North Korea to drop the celebration. Though North Korea claimed the celebration was “sincere,” they claimed to have no choice but to cancel it because of slanderous media.