Herald-Whig View

Winter Olympics create historic opportunity for divided Koreas

Posted: Feb. 12, 2018 12:50 pm

TIGHTLY choreographed opening ceremonies welcomed the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Friday, kicking off 16 days of competition on snow and ice.

An audience of billions will watch the best athletes in the world, hoping the games also will bring out the best in everyone seeking a way forward for South Korea, North Korea and the rest of humanity.

Something notable already has occurred, with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea opening formal communications with North Korea on what is being termed a "unified Olympics."

In theory, the Olympics are about pure sports. The strength of hockey players, the grace of figure skaters, the speed of luge teams and the control of downhill skiers are the memorable moments.

In practice, the setting of an Olympic competition always is a silent backdrop that becomes part of the event. The U.S. hockey team pulled off the "miracle on ice" in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. Nancy Kerrigan made the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, memorable with her silver medal finish in figure skating not long after she was attacked by a baton-wielding assailant. Nagano, Japan, is remembered for the 1998 games, which were the first to feature snowboarding.

Host South Korea will be recognized as a modern, industrialized nation that has benefited from decades of trade and formal relations with other countries. North Korea's cloak of secrecy and oppression will be the counterpoint.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is sending his sister Kim Yo-jong and the head of state Kim Yong-nam to represent his government.

Still, it is significant that a member of the family is making a first visit to South Korea, and Kim Jong-Un has invited Moon to visit North Korea.

History will be made at the games. Most of the images will be of young competitors striving for perfection.

It will be gratifying if the Pyeongchang Olympics are someday seen as a positive turning point in a normalized relationship between North Korea, South Korea and the rest of the world.

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