See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

A tale of two Olympics

The winter Olympics is due to begin in PyeongChang, South Korea on Friday amid fanfare and controversy.


Written by

Updated: February 8, 2018

Once again, the two Koreas will march under a unified flag signaling a period of détente that seems fragile in the face of nuclear tests and Washington’s grandstanding.

The Olympics will be the second time such an event is hosted by South Korea and while rapprochement will be a major talking point heading into the winter games the mood is very different from the last time the Olympics were held on the peninsula.

A troubled past

Proceedings leading up to the Seoul Olympics in 1988 were clouded by the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 by North Korean agents.

Under direct orders from Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un’s father, the agents blew up the plane to try and prevent the summer games from taking place.

Kim Jong-il had failed to secure a joint bid to host the Olympics and struck back hoping to dent the prestige of Seoul hosting the games.

The two agents responsible for the bombings were tracked down and while one managed to commit suicide, the other eventually confessed to the attack and to being a North Korean agent.

Condemnation was swift with the United States calling the attack a terrorist action and placing North Korea on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

An uncertain future

30 years later and tensions on the Korean peninsula remain. Nuclear and missile tests by the North have increasingly agitated the US and its partners within the region. The North’s two main international allies, Russia and China, have both condemned the tests.

North Korea, undeterred, has said it would continue its missile program. Experts say that the country is months, if not weeks, away from developing a ballistic missile that can hit the continental United States.

In response US President Donald Trump has upped his rhetoric and called for a grand military parade to rival that of Pyongyang’s. The US President has said that his nuclear button is bigger than his rival’s, that he would increase the United States’ nuclear stockpile, the first increase in decades, and called for more sanctions against the hermit kingdom.

An unexpected thaw

While South Korea has traditionally acquiesced to the State Department’s policies, under new president Moon Jae-in, Seoul has forged its own path in its dealing with the North. While Trump was publicly considering military options against Pyongyang, Seoul opened direct lines of communications to its northern neighbor. It invited the north to participate in the upcoming games under a joint flag and to field a unified team.

A member of Kim Jong-Un’s inner circle, his sister Kim Yo-jong, will attend the Olympics as part of the north’s high-level delegation.

“Kim Yo-jong is a messenger for Kim Jong-un. She is expected to deliver the exact intentions and thoughts of the North Korean leader about the regime‘s approach to the nuclear issue,” Kim Yeon-chul, professor at Inje University told The Korea Herald.

“The fact Kim Yo-jong is coming here proves that Kim Jong-un views the current situation very seriously and seeks to ease sanctions on the backdrop of the Olympics,” he said.

“Kim Jong-un might be thinking that it would be good to talk to the US, but if it doesn’t happen, he would at least seek to improve relations with South Korea.”



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Cod Satrusayang
About the Author: Cod Satrusayang is the Managing Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

‘History will take note of those who ridiculed removal of Article 370’: PM Modi in Maharashtra

PM Modi also expressed confidence that the BJP will break all victory records in the October 21 Maharashtra Assembly elections. Prime Minister on Thursday once again lashed out at the opposition saying that history will take note of those who mocked the abrogation of Article 370, that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. “Whenever Article 370 will be discussed in history, — the decision that was taken in the interest of the country — the people who opposed and ridiculed will be remembered,” PM Modi said while addressing a poll rally in Maharashtra’s Parli. He said the next week’s state Assembly elections were a battle between BJP’s “karyashakti” (power of development) and opposition’s “swarth shakti” (selfishness). Further targeting the Congress and NCP leaders, he wondered if “frustrated and dejected” people could do anything good for people. “A Congress


By The Statesman
October 18, 2019

Diplomacy

Malaysia’s PM Mahathir says rail line RTS linking Johor Baru to Singapore to proceed

The rail line has been on again and off again. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday (Oct 17) said Malaysia will proceed with the 4km Johor Baru to Singapore rail line. His comments about the Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail link followed that of Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke on Tuesday that details of the project will be decided by the Malaysian Cabinet within two weeks. Tun Dr Mahathir said when asked by reporters on Thursday: “We will proceed with the RTS but we will take some time.” Asked if this meant the Malaysian government had resolved 


By The Straits Times
October 18, 2019

Diplomacy

S. Korean, ASEAN officials look ahead to special summit and stronger regional ties

Korea has increasingly look to Southeast Asia as an export destination and regional partners. Ahead of the highly anticipated summit in Busan next month between the leaders of South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, top officials from participating countries gathered in the southern port city Wednesday and voiced high expectations for the future of the relationship between South Korea and the ASEAN nations. South Korean Ambassador to ASEAN Lim Sung-nam, ASEAN-Korea Center Secretary-General Lee Hyuk, Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don and Myanmar Ambassador to South Korea U Thant Sin said they looked forward to the upcoming summit, calling it a steppingstone to stronger South Korea-ASEAN ties and to economic prosperity and peace on the Korean Peninsula. “In the past 30 years, the relationship between South Korea and ASEAN has grown to an astonishing degree. Trade volume rose 20-fold and human e


By The Korea Herald
October 18, 2019

Diplomacy

We will never abandon people of occupied Kashmir, says Army chief during LoC visit

The army chief said that the Pakistan army will fulfil its role no matter the cost. Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa while visiting troops stationed along the Line of Control (LoC) on Wednesday vowed “to never leave Kashmiris alone” in their fight against Indian oppression. “Kashmiris in IOJ&K are bravely facing Indian atrocities under continued siege. We shall never leave them alone and play our rightful role at whatever cost”, said Gen Bajwa. Gen Bajwa’s remarks followed a briefing of the “deliberate targeting of civilians” by Indian troops and the response by Pakistan’s armed forces. A day earlier, at least three civilians died and eight others were injured in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after Indian troops resorted to “indiscri


By Dawn
October 17, 2019

Diplomacy

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam unveils measures to ease housing crunch

Lam was forced to deliver speech via video after protests. Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced measures aimed at easing a housing shortage on Wednesday (Oct 16) as she battles to restore confidence in her administration and address widespread discontent after four months of mostly violent anti-government protests. Mrs Lam was forced to deliver her speech via video after her annual policy address in the Legislative Council was aborted when some lawmakers repeatedly jeered and shouted at her as she began speaking. After aborting her speech in the chamber tw


By The Straits Times
October 17, 2019

Diplomacy

Singapore’s 4G leadership lays out plans to take relationship with China ‘to a higher level’

The two countries share a close relationship. Singapore’s fourth-generation leadership has a comprehensive plan for engaging with China economically and plugging into the East Asian giant’s rapid development. Ten members of the “4G” cohort drove home this point as they spoke with Singapore media at the end of a bilateral meeting in Chongqing on Tuesday (Oct 15) that was of particular significance, as the Singapore team was composed fully of this new generation of political leaders. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat led the Singapore delegation as he co-chaired the 15th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the highest-level bilateral platform between Singapore and China. Mr Heng, who took over the reins from former DPM Teo Chee Hean earlier this year, said his first meeting in the new role was forward-looking and productive, and that he took the opportunity to “


By The Straits Times
October 16, 2019