News / Asia

Koreas Try Mending Ties with Sports Diplomacy

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid