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

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs