By Anandita Mehta
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, announced on Jan. 17 that North and South Korea will participate together in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games as a joint team under a joint flag, according to BBC.
This announcement is not the first of its kind. The two countries previously marched together in Olympic opening ceremonies nine times in the past, most recently in the the Asian Winter Games in 2007, according to The New York Times.
South Korea has been advocating for the use of sporting events as a means to thaw the political tension between the two countries since the 1960s, according to The New York Times.
North Korea has used sports as symbolic gestures of reconciliation in the past, as evidenced by their previous experiences participating with South Korea, according to The Washington Post.
Though Bach called the joint team a “milestone in a long journey,” as quoted by BBC, tensions between the nations remain.
In addition to marching under the same flag, the two countries have created a unified hockey team with a South Korean coach. North Korea will send 22 athletes to compete in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, short track speed skating, figure skating and hockey, according to BBC.
Some South Korean athletes are disdainful at the prospect of giving up their hard-earned spots for North Korean athletes, according to The New York Times.
Prior to the start of the games, the unified team will train at a ski resort in North Korea before traveling to South Korea on Feb. 1, according to The New York Times. Since South Korea will host the games this year in Pyeongchang, North Korea is a de facto part of the host team.
North Korean Olympic athletes experience a higher standard of living than the rest of the country’s citizens. Since King Jong-un assumed power in 2011, there has been increased spending on athletic facilities, according to The Washington Post.
The gesture stands in sharp contrast to the threats of war between the leaders of North Korea and the United States, South Korea’s greatest ally, according to The New York Times.
The question of peace remains unsolved between North and South Korea, which have technically been at war since Korean War ended with an armistice between the powers in 1953, according to The Washington Post.