The world sits still and watches as a unified Korean delegation marches under one flag in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. Undoubtedly a rare sight. Could this mean a chance at reconciliation and peace for both nations? Or is this nothing short of a power move?
North Korea has sporadically participated in the Olympics, dating back to the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Its participation has been affected by numerous factors including a Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles, Calif. But the underlying reason for its sporadic appearances is its hostility towards the world because of its rather reactionary domestic and international policies.
A couple days ago, Kim Yo Jung, the sister of leader Kim Jong Un made an appearance at the opening ceremony. She sat behind Mike Pence, who stayed in his seat cold-faced, seemingly unaffected by the presence of Yo Jung, let alone the North Korean delegation. Yo Jong, at times referred to as the “princess of North Korea,” smiled off into the distance as the unified Korean delegation appeared. This is a power move in and of itself: North Korea is making an attempt to paint itself differently solely by sending a female representative. It should be noted that Mike Pence remained glued to his seat stand when the unified delegation appeared.
The United States has offered to once again start diplomatic talks with North Korea. But should the United States continue investing time into something that might already be hopeless? It certainly could appear that North Korea’s unified participation at the Olympics is their way of saying that they want to rebuild alliances and give diplomacy and peace a chance. Yet this is nothing but a façade. Why should one instance of cooperation offset years of deception? This could very well just be a distraction. According to several sources, even after the Korean delegation marched united, the North Koreans continued their cyberterrorism through the state-sponsored hacking group commonly known as Lazarus.
Recently, both North Korea and the United States have been engaging in a nuclear-threat-exchange game of chicken. Each nation has to act more irrational than the other. Much criticism has been voiced about the way the president of the United States has been responding to North Korea’s nuclear tests. While I don’t necessarily agree with his method of handling such an issue, I do think it calls into question a change in international strategy. For a country that’s known for its barbarity, is it wise and strategic for the United States to act calm and rational? Is it United States’s duty to act rationally? What happens when acting rational no longer works? Does one need to resort to irrational means? Both these nations are engaging in the classic chicken game. But in the chicken game, it’s the person that is the most irrational who wins. But is it still considered a win if the safety of the world is at stake?
With that said, diplomacy should still always be the first resort.
And while it may as well be a façade, we should applaud the North Koreans for wanting to participate in the Olympics. The Olympics are a symbol of collaboration and cooperation on multiple fronts, and North Koreans taking the initiative to participate in an event that has such a symbol undoubtedly makes a statement, whether it be positive or negative.
Aditi Mahesh is a member of the Class of 2021 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.