The time has finally come and on Friday, Feb. 9, the opening ceremony will kick off the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
The Korean Peninsula enters 2018 following a tumultuous year in which tensions between the North and South rose to a fever pitch, with threats of nuclear extermination becoming a regular theme across media outlets worldwide.
However, that all changed late last year when delegations from both countries held a joint meeting to discuss the possibility of North Korea’s potential participation at the Games in Pyeongchang this year.
This is the latest of Branko's articles on the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. To read more, check out some of his other articles.
There were times when it was believed that several countries would forego their attendance at the Olympics because of heightening tensions.
As the Games are set to get underway, final security precautions are indeed being taken. Special forces have been in training in the run-up to the Games in order to ensure that no stone be left unturned in ensuring that an unforeseen disaster does not become the main headline of the Olympics. This was the case at the Summer Games in Munich in 1972, where eleven Israeli athletes were killed, in what is now known in Olympic history as theMunich Massacre.
According to a recent report, special forces have been undergoing anti-terrorist drills in preparation for any potential incidents.
A force of60,000, 50,000 of whom are soldiers has been conducting reconnaissance drills and critical combat skills in a cold-weather environment in recent days.
There are a host of other scenarios which forces are preparing for, including the possibility of unmanned drones transporting and dropping bombs on proceedings.
As a result, drone-catching drones will be in use to intercept any unmanned aerial vehicles (AEV) posing a potential threat to athletes on the ground. For example, shooting drills have been carried out to shoot down a bomb threat to athletes on a bus.
Many in South Korea are wary when it comes to North Korea’s participation at this year’s Games, made even more apparent when the decision was made that certain teams would be “unified” for the Games and that both South and North Korea would march together under one flag.
While on the surface, it may look as a gesture of goodwill, some are still uncertain of the pretenses behind the move.
“North Korea will cause trouble one way or another in order to interrupt the successful completion of the Games. In all the years the Kim dynasty has been in power, North Korea has never once properly cooperated with South Korea,” says Yoo Dong-ryul, head of the Korea Institute of Liberal Democracy in Seoul.
There have been fears that North Korea would use the Winter Games as a pretext to further spread its propaganda on a global scale, as it did quite aggressively with its missile and nuclear tests last year.
Leaflets welcoming the North Korean athletes are said to have been found in the mountains in Seoul, according to a North Korean news outlet, as North Korea’s ceremonial leader, Kim Yong-nam prepares to visit South Korea this week in an attempt to further along inter-Korean relations.
While a thaw in tensions in the conflict on the peninsula on the eve of the Olympics is seen by many as a welcome sign, it is by no means an excuse to stand down on security measures, as these recent developments suggest.
The world can watch and only hope that the Winter Games in Pyeongchang will go off as a success and that there will be no major international incidents to speak of, but the threat is there and thus tensions will remain high.
When North and South Korean athletes march together in the Parade of Nations on Friday night for the first time since 2006 in Turin, it will be the first telling sign of what could be to come in the next two weeks.
Two scenarios could play out.
North and South Korea could mirror the performance of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a collection of athletes from the former republics of the Soviet Union, which competed together at the Winter and Summer Games in 1992 in Albertville and Barcelona, respectively.
The second scenario, which foreshadows a complete unmitigated disaster, is one not worth considering at all.
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