12 Pages

The Olympics in the post-Soviet era: The case of the two Koreas

The Korean peninsula is the last remnant of the Cold War. Ideologically, the two Koreas still maintain different political systems: communist North and capitalist South. While this ideological difference poses potential political problems, the struggle largely revolves around the question of reunification (Cummings, 2005). This issue has concerned the two Korean governments in the post-Soviet era. Ever since the division, reunification has been a central issue in Korean political discourse. No consensus has ever been reached as the two Koreas retain mutually incompatible ideas regarding reunification, even though both countries generally agree they should be integrated. After the First Korean Summit in 2000, inter-Korean relations changed. In

their Joint Declaration, the leaders of the two Korean states agreed that there was in fact no conflicting element in their approaches to reunification, and that they would make a concerted effort to realize this goal. As part of the effort, the two also consented to develop economic and cultural ties. Therefore, numerous inter-Korean co-operative exchange projects were initiated, including sport programmes. It seemed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) had taken a significant step toward reunification. However, with a new conservative president in power in South Korea from

early 2008, inter-Korean relations have become stagnant. Claiming that the previous government’s humanitarianism toward North Korea helped that country develop nuclear weapons, the current South Korean conservative regime says it will take a tougher attitude towards its northern neighbour. This statement resulted in North Korea halting many co-operative cultural and economic initiatives developed over the past decade. Consequently a cold atmosphere again hangs over the Korean peninsula. Due to the unpredictable, unstable relations between North and South

Korea, many Koreans are ambivalent when delegates of the two Koreas encounter each other at Olympic venues; hostility and fraternity overlap depending on the particular political circumstances of the day. All of this provides interesting material that can be used to determine the political value

of the Olympics for the two states. This chapter discusses inter-Korean relations within the context of the Olympic Games from 1988 to the present.