Koreans at Baylor emphasize importance of 2018 Olympics

Illustration by Penelope Shirey | Design Editor

By Corrie Coleman | Reporter

At the opening ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, North and South Korea marched under one flag. This symbol of unity comes at a pivotal moment for the two nations’ political relations, which have been especially strained in recent months. The 2018 Winter Olympics is taking place in PyeongChang, a South Korean city located roughly 40 miles from the North Korean border. Many are left wondering what the future will hold for the Korean Peninsula.

In addition to marching together in the opening ceremony, the two nations also share a women’s hockey team. These expressions of reconciliation stand in stark contrast to past Olympic games, when the North and South competed against each other.

Many see these acts of peace as signs of hope for a unified Korea, including the South Korean government. In an article by the New York Times, the South Korean president Moon Jae-in said these Olympic games could catalyze peace between the North and South.

“It is not an impossible dream,” he said. “[That the 2018 Olympics] will become a candle that sheds light on peace.”

Others see the nations’ temporary cooperation as unwise and harmful. Opposition to North Korea’s government and human rights issues have led to outcry and even protests from South Koreans.

North and South Korea have been separated since 1945, following World War II. Korea, then a Japanese colony, was left without a government when Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces. The responsibility to organize elections fell to the Allied Forces, specifically the United States and the Soviet Union. While the Soviets hoped for a communist Korea, the United States wanted a democratic and capitalist nation. When the two powers began to quarrel, the peninsula was divided. The Soviet Union was entrusted with the reorganization of the North and the United States, the South. Since then, the two nations have become increasingly divided, resulting in a three-year-long war and most recently, tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program.

Baylor Korean lecturer Sonia Kim Uber grew up in Gyeongju City in South Korea. She explained that the nation is divided around the issue of unification.

“A few people are OK with it, but a lot of people are upset because they have worked so hard to make South Korea an independent country,” Uber said. “They feel hurt.”

Irving sophomore Steve Yi was born in the United States, but his family is originally from Korea. Yi said he believes this gesture of unity, while possibly beneficial, could cause disagreement.

“I feel like it might light some conflict but overall I think it’s OK,” Yi said. “There’s still a lot of conflicts between the two in my opinion.”

Nonetheless, Yi believes the Olympics could spark some cooperation between the two nations in the future.

“I do believe that it will help in the future. Hopefully they will intermingle in other events as well,” Yi said. “This is a major step towards reconciliation.”

Bentonville, Ark., freshman David Jung echoed Yi, saying that marching under one flag could be a step in the right direction for North and South Korea. Jung was born in South Korea and moved to the United States when he was four.

“I feel like it’s a great,” Jung said. “For the North and South to have peace, kind of cooperate … I think we’re all just Koreans.”

However, Jung believes the two nations should remain cautious. He believes South Korea should not overlook the conflicts they have with the North.

Allen junior Heather Yen is president of the Korean Student Association. Yen, whose mother is from Seoul, hopes North and South Korea can one day be united. She thinks the Olympics provide an important opportunity for the nations to interact with each other.

“This is one of the rare opportunities that they get to be unified,” Yen said. “We started out as one. We share the Korean culture and the traditions and I think it would be nice someday to find that common bond again.”

Yen said she hopes the Olympics can bring the North and South together by showing them what they can accomplish when working together.

“It could better their relationship because it shows … what we could do if we were unified instead of divided,” Yen said. “It’s just a really good opportunity to see them as one again, even for a brief moment.”