The world has set its sights on the remote region of PyeongChang as the 2018 Winter Olympics are currently underway. Apart from the high levels of athleticism exhibited by the Olympic athletes, the international community is also watching the inter-Korean rapprochement unfold.
After North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in New Year’s Eve made an impressive overture and ended a two-year radio silence, not only the two teams marched under a unity flag, but his own sister, Kim Yo Jong visited South Korea; it was the first time since the end of the Korean war, 65 years ago, that a member of the ruling family visited the South.
What’s more, Pyongyang extended a rare invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Nothing has been settled on any trip north, but the verbal message to come at a “convenient time” from dictator Kim Jong Un, delivered by his visiting younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, is part of a sudden rush of improving feelings between the rivals.
In spite of skepticism surrounding this move, if peace isn’t imminent, a summit in Pyongyang between Moon and Kim Jong Un seems preferable to recent months’ threats.
During the opening ceremony of the Winter Games, Kim Yo Jong and North Korea’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, were sitting above and behind US Vice President Mike Pence and fellow hard-liner Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The awkwardness between Pence and the North Koreans was palpable, but that was not the case with Moon Jae-In, who was seen talking enthusiastically with Kim Yo Jong.
It is noteworthy that Pence’s efforts to keep North Korea from stealing the show at the Winter Olympics proved short-lived, drowned out by images of the two Koreas marching and competing as one. On Saturday, despite Seoul’s efforts to improve the relations between the two countries, Pence insisted that “there is no daylight” among the United States and allies South Korea and Japan in intensifying pressure on the North over its nuclear and missile programs.
Pence spent the days leading up to the PyeongChang Olympics warning that the North was trying to “hijack the message and imagery” of the event with its “propaganda.” But the North was welcomed with open arms to what South Korean President Moon Jae-in called “Olympic games of peace.”