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2017-10-24 16:51
North Korea's PyeongChang participation is pivotal



The countdown to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games has begun following a flame-lighting ceremony at Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics, Tuesday, with Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon in attendance. The torch will arrive in Korea, Nov. 1, after being carried around Greece.

It is the first time for Korea to host the Olympics since the 1988 Summer Games inSeoul. But this time, there is not enough national excitement. Rather, many Koreans are indifferent to the PyeongChang Games. Only about 30 percent of tickets have been sold domestically, and international sales are also lagging behind.

On top of this, the geopolitical tension in the Korean Peninsula due to North Korea’s incessant provocations has triggered concerns about safety during the Feb. 9 to 25 games.

For PyeongChang’s success, the Moon Jae-in administration has some important tasks ahead. President Moon, who serves as honorary ambassador for the games, has vowed to realize the “Olympics of peace” by getting North Korea to participate. The government is preparing for the request of a U.N. resolution, which is expected to be voted on around mid-November, asking all conflicts throughout the world be put on hold during the Olympic period.

The most important thing is to induce North Korea’s participation. The world is eyeing whether North Korea will come to PyeongChang. So far there have been some positive signs. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said last week that North Korea has submitted an informal request to the International Paralympic Committee to participate in the PyeongChang Paralympics. A North Korean pairs’ figure skating team has already won a ticket to compete.

If North Korea participates in the games, it will serve as an impetus for reconciliation between the two Koreas at a time of rising tension. The authorities should not leave out the possibility of a joint cheering delegation, which will significantly enhance the appeal of the games, if a unified team is too late.

Another important task for the government is to revive Korea’s tourism industry which has been hit badly by China’s retaliation against the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system here. Beijing banned travel agencies from sending group tours to Korea earlier this year to protest the deployment of the U.S. anti-missile defense system. Authorities should utilize the Olympics as an occasion to have China lift a travel ban.

Finally, it is crucial for the government to come up with a plan to manage Olympic facilities after the games lest they end up becoming “white elephants.”




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