South Korean President Moon Jae-in hopes his “audacious plan” for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang can help unite North and South Korea.
Tensions in the region have been heightened after US President Donald Trump’s fierce warning to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if it kept up its threats against the US and its allies, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sent two ballistic missiles over Japan, demonstrating increased range, and set off his sixth, most powerful nuclear test on September 3.
The Winter Games take place 30 years after Seoul hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, a turbulent era in which a number of nations — including North Korea — decided to boycott the Games.
And in an interview with CNN, Moon suggested the 1988 Games had played a part in ending the Cold War era — the Seoul Games had the least number of boycotting nations during this period — by bringing countries together. He hopes PyeongChang can help build relationships in Asia.
“I believe that the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will also be able to provide an opportunity to the entire international community,” Moon told CNN’s Talk Asia.
So far, no North Korean athlete has qualified for PyeongChang, though there has been talk of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granting wild cards, something previously proposed by Choi Moon-soon, governor of the Gangwon province that will host the Winter Games.
“I hope that North Korea will also participate, which will provide a very good opportunity for inter-Korean peace and reconciliation,” added Moon. “And to this, we are closely consulting and cooperating with the IOC.”
North and South Korea have a rich sporting history, in particular in football. The two countries regularly compete in friendlies and international competition, notably the Asian Cup.
Earlier this year, a qualifier for the Asian Cup — held in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang — attracted more than 40,000 fans to the Kim Il Sung Stadium.
And Moon believes that, over the coming years, sport offers a chance for the region’s nations to reconcile.
“Right after the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, two years later, the 2020 Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing,” he said.
“So in two years’ term, the Olympic Games will be held Korea, Japan and China and I believe that this can provide a good opportunity to build peace and cooperation within the Northeast Asian region.
“I would like to propose to the leaders of the Northeast Asian countries this audacious plan.”
The PyeongChang Games will run from February 9-25.