If you have been keeping up with the recent Pyeongchang Olympics, you might have seen a headline or two saying “The Unified Hockey Team Is A Starting Place” or “Will joint ice hockey team warm up frosty Korea relations?”. So what’ the big deal? Why is the media so focused on the topic of North and South Korea having a unified ice hockey team?
Well, unless you have been living under a rock for the past few centuries you would have heard of South Korea’s rocky relationship with the North, or the North with the rest of the world, excluding China and Russia. Tensions between the North and the South have escalated in recent months as Donald Trump, president of the United States, a long-time ally of the South, continues to provoke North Korea in his twitter posts and speeches.
However, the two nations shocked the world when it was announced that the North and South would come together to form Korea’s unified women’s Olympic hockey team. This unified women’s ice hockey team will compete as ‘Korea’, represented by the Korean unification flag with the anthem being the song ‘Arirang’.
For decades, the Olympics have avoided politics, wanting to keep the games focused on the sport rather than current affairs. But this year’s women’s ice hockey team from Korea, assembled with the hope of promoting peace among neighbours technically still at war is definitely screaming “politics”. Some South Koreans believe that having a united team in such a significant international sports event might help to heal the relationship between the North and the South but many are sceptical that a single sport will do much or leave a lasting impact on the relationship between the two countries.
Personally I, too, have doubts that this temporary team would do much to aid the divide between the two nations as the tensions between the two countries date way back and is heavily influenced by the politics of their allies, most prominently China and the United States. Unity is not something that can be produced simply by representing the same flag, wearing the same uniform, singing the anthem, but even so it is an undeniable fact that I, and probably the rest of the world, will be keeping an eye on the unified team each time they enter the rink, bearing the weight of the heaviest symbol of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Ang Yen Chi