News / Asia

Koreas Try Mending Ties with Sports Diplomacy

Daniel Schearf
A weightlifting competition in North Korea’s capital this week is raising hopes that sports diplomacy can help reclusive North Korea open up. Already, the event represents a breakthrough because of North Korea’s willingness to play the South Korean national anthem, and hoist its flag, if the South Korean team wins.

South Korea's weightlifters on September 10 for the first time went to North Korea.

The team of 22 athletes and 19 sports officials is competing in the Asian Cup and Interclub Weightlifting Championship hosted by Pyongyang.

North Korea invited the team in August and South Korea's Unification Ministry last week approved the trip provided Pyongyang maintains international standards if one of their athletes win.

That means hoisting the South Korean flag if they place in the top three and playing the South Korean national anthem if they win gold.

Officially and publicly recognizing the symbols of South Korean sovereignty would be a first in communist North Korea.

Kim Ki-dong is vice president of South Korea's Weightlifting Federation. He says North Korea's unexpected flexibility on the flag and anthem could be a sign that “sports diplomacy” is beginning to pay off.

He says he thinks it is similar to when the United States and China began ping-pong diplomacy that helped open up China. He says he hopes the competition can be a seed of peace for exchange between the two Koreas.

Ping-pong exchanges with the U.S. in the 1970s paved the way for President Richard Nixon's historic visit to communist China and, later, normalized relations.

Few are expecting similar dramatic results given the deep divisions that persist between the two Koreas. The two technically remain at war and Pyongyang still periodically threatens to attack the South.

Although playing Seoul’s national anthem in the North could be a symbolic breakthrough, Kim says the South Korea team must still win against a formidable opponent.

He predicts that at least the national flag will be hoisted. The weightlifting of North Korea, he says, is internationally strong. They won three gold medals in the Olympics in London. He says they should learn, if there is something to learn, from North Korea.

In July South Korea warmly hosted North Korea's female footballers (soccer) for the East Asian Cup tournament. And, unlike Pyongyang, Seoul, since at least 2005, has allowed displaying of the North Korean flag and playing of its anthem at sports events.

Professor Lim Eul-chul at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of Kyungnam University says sports exchanges can be separated from politics.

He says sports exchanges obviously foster peace and also enhance cooperation and exchanges between private entities. This will play a role to foster an opening, he says, and can be an important tool for North Korea to open up to the international community.

International sports have helped bring the two Koreas together in the past. They participated together in opening ceremonies of some past Olympics, including under a unified flag at the 2000 Sydney games.

But more recently, political tensions kept their Olympic teams separated.

Dennis Rodman answers a reporter's question at a hotel in Pyongyang, in this photo taken by Kyodo, Sept. 7, 2013.Dennis Rodman answers a reporter's question at a hotel in Pyongyang, in this photo taken by Kyodo, Sept. 7, 2013.
x
Dennis Rodman answers a reporter's question at a hotel in Pyongyang, in this photo taken by Kyodo, Sept. 7, 2013.
Dennis Rodman answers a reporter's question at a hotel in Pyongyang, in this photo taken by Kyodo, Sept. 7, 2013.
​Former National Basketball Association player Dennis Rodman on Monday announced plans for an exhibition game in Pyongyang in January between American and North Korean basketball players.

The eccentric athlete befriended North Korea's young leader Kim Jong Un, a basketball fan, during his first trip to the country in February to film a documentary.

He said the North Korean leader also invited him to help him write a book and to coach their Olympic basketball team.

Seoul Bureau producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More