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Visitors React to 'Peace Games' on Olympics Opening Day


Members of the North Korean delegation hold flags of the combined Koreas before the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 9, 2018.

A sense of détente, at least for the time being, prevailed in and around the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium Friday as the Winter Games opened in a ceremony where North and South Korean athletes marched under a unified flag.

Aside from the joint Korean women's hockey team, the North and South will compete separately; but, the presence of North Korean athletes and a high-level delegation from Pyongyang in the South put some people at ease in rural Pyeongchang County.

Outside the stadium, Zumi Miranada, a tourist from the Philippines, said the current cooperation between the North and South gives her "peace of mind" as a tourist.

"We feel safe," she said, adding she didn't always feel that way.

After a turbulent 2017, in which the threat of war grew more real by the month, North and South Korea engaged in talks this year ahead of the Games.

Kim Yo Jong (L) sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 9, 2018.
Kim Yo Jong (L) sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 9, 2018.

Talks at the inter-Korean border led to North Korea's participation in Pyeongchang. And on Friday, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim Yo Jong, became the first member of the North's ruling family to visit the South. She sat in a VIP box during the opening ceremony, not far from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Beyond the Games, however, it is not clear how the typically unstable relationship between Pyeongyang and Seoul and its allies will continue.

Pictures of South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd-L) are seen on a sign during a rally to denounce the United States' policy against North Korea and demand the peaceful Winter Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 16, 2018.
Pictures of South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd-L) are seen on a sign during a rally to denounce the United States' policy against North Korea and demand the peaceful Winter Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 16, 2018.

The North-South détente has shifted some of the focus of the Games from athletics to politics. That was apparent in the streets of Daegwallyeong, the small village where the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium is located.

Dozens of pro-unification demonstrators gathered outside a spicy stir-fried chicken restaurant and convenience store waving the unification flag — a vivid light blue image of a united Korean Peninsula on a white backdrop.

"I wanted to show that there are many people who support North Korea, who support a single South-North team," said Lee Eun-ha, a college student among the pro-unification crowd.

Up the road, however, an elderly husband and wife, each draped in the South Korean flag, denounced Moon as a "fake president."

Since former President Park Geun-hye was impeached and removed from office in a corruption scandal, the couple have been afraid Moon will return the country to the "communist" North. They want peace and unification, but don't believe Kim Jong Un can be trusted.

The streets nearest the stadium, however, were mostly filled Friday with tourists without a political agenda.

Angel Mancari came all the way from the U.S. state of Alaska to support her daughter, Rosie Mancari, who's competing in the Ladies' Snowboard Cross.

"Everybody's been wonderful, absolutely wonderful," said Mancari of the South Koreans.

"I want peace. I want world peace. Without a doubt," she added.

A sense of peace built within the Olympic Stadium as the event neared conclusion.

A group of famous Korean singers performed the late artist John Lennon's Imagine, one of the last century's ultimate peace ballads, before North and South Koreans together relayed the Olympic flame to the base of the Olympic cauldron.

The weather even warmed slightly for crowds on the street and in the arena, rising just above freezing at night for the first time this week.

The joint entrance of North and South Koreans into the arena was a high point of the night. And while significant, the two Koreas have marched under a unified flag at previous Olympics.

The meetings between North and South continue Saturday when President Moon holds a luncheon with the North Korean delegation.

In Photos: Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

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