Hello, everyone. Welcome to KBS World Radio’s special program on the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, which came to a close on Sunday. Today, we’ll take a look back at this year’s Winter Games—an Olympics of peace highlighting the theme of “Passion, Connected.” I’m Mark Broome.
On February 9, the 23rd Winter Olympic Games kicked off in the South Korean alpine county of PyeongChang under the slogan of “Passion, Connected.” During the opening ceremony, athletes from all around the world entered the stadium, signaling the start of the 17-day competition.
In a show of unity, athletes from South and North Korea marched together under a unified Korean Peninsula flag while the Korean folk song of Arirang played in the background. Let’s hear from some spectators at the opening ceremony.
#1: I’m deeply moved. Something unimaginable is happening now.
#2: Oh, I’m in tears. As the Olympics of peace, the PyeongChang Games will hopefully promote peace the world over.
The pentagonal open stadium was filled with 35-thousand spectators, who all stood up and celebrated the joint entrance with applause and raucous cheers. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong sat among world leaders on the VIP podium. Without the PyeongChang Olympics, the scene would have been impossible.
As President Moon officially declared the PyeongChang Winter Olympics open, the sacred Olympic flame that had come all the way from Greece and completed its domestic journey was carried by South Korean sports heroes in the stadium. The torch was then delivered to two members of the unified women’s ice hockey team—Park Jong-ah from South Korea and Jong Su-hyon from the North. They climbed up the stairs, holding the torch together, to pass it to South Korea’s figure skating queen Kim Yu-na, who finally ignited the Olympic cauldron.
That was a moment to remember for Koreans. Let’s hear from former Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun, who attended the opening ceremony.
Under the Korean Peninsula flag, South and North Korean athletes entered the stadium together, hand in hand, to receive a standing ovation. It was an amazing scene. It was also wonderful to see the South and North Korean ice hockey players running together when carrying the torch. Until recently, the two Koreas couldn’t meet due to various difficulties. But once they met, they got close to each other easily. That’s what I saw.
Korea is one of the only divided countries in the world, and Gangwon is the only divided province on the Korean Peninsula. PyeongChang in this province is only 80 kilometers away from the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas. Significantly, the place witnessed the start of a great peace initiative, namely, the Olympics. Some 3,000 athletes from 92 countries pushed the envelope further during the 17-day competition to convey the message of “challenge” and “peace.”
PyeongChang won its Winter Olympics bid on its third attempt after two unsuccessful bids. When its first bid was launched in 2003, South Korea presented the vision of the “Olympics of peace.” Here is Professor Jeong Yoon-soo from the Graduate School of Culture at Sungkonghoe University.
The South Korean government focused on the theme of “environment” and “peace” for its Winter Olympics bid. The theme of “peace,” in particular, reflected its wish to create a reconciliatory mood between South and North Korea. Throughout the bids, the government continued to underline the significance of hosting the global sports festival on the divided peninsula and to deliver the message of peace to people the world over. In this sense, this year’s event is much more meaningful than other previous Olympic Games.
However, the security conditions on the Korean Peninsula were rather unstable.
North Korea pushed ahead with 16 missile tests last year alone, with leader Kim Jong-un declaring the completion of its nuclear weapons capability. This led to the creation of unprecedentedly high levels of tension in the region. However, the mood changed in July last year.
In his “New Berlin Initiative,” President Moon suggested that North Korea take part in the PyeongChang Olympics. But the North remained silent. To make matters worse, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un continued to exchange harsh words. Both in South Korea and overseas, concerns were rising over the safety of the PyeongChang Games. Numerous officials had made strenuous efforts for a long time to prepare for the event, and it’s hard to imagine how they felt. Here is Kim Ki-hong of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee.
The entire world was concerned about the war of words between Trump and Kim Jong-un as well as North Korea’s missile tests. Of course, South Korean citizens, including me, were deeply worried about the situation. Still, I cherished the hope that things will turn for the better after all.
While North Korea continued with its provocations, South Korea also continued to make efforts toward the Olympics of peace.
On November 13, 2017, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted an Olympic Truce resolution for the successful hosting of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Following the ancient Greek tradition, it calls for nations around the world to suspend hostilities around the Olympics.
PyeongChang represents perhaps the most sincere effort to cross the frozen border between the South and North and to foster a peaceful environment. I’m confident that the upcoming Games will be one of the best platforms not only for transmitting this message but for sharing the Olympic spirit of peace for humanity with the entire world.
That was former figure skating champion Kim Yu-na, a goodwill ambassador for the PyeongChang Winter Games who used her U.N. speech to highlight PyeongChang’s effort toward peace, moving beyond Korea’s division. Here again is Professor Jeong.
North Korea didn’t respond to Seoul’s proposal for the North’s participation in the Olympics, but South Korea never gave up. PyeongChang Organizing Committee Chairman Lee Hee-beom and publicity ambassador for the PyeongChang Games Kim Yu-na also focused on this point at the U.N. General Assembly last November. While the local media reported this topic consistently, I imagine the Unification Ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry engaged in behind-the-scenes coordination with North Korea and the U.S. for months. It has made persistent efforts to implement the spirit of peace by actions, not just by words.
On January 1 this year, a piece of surprising news came from North Korea. In a New Year’s speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his will to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics. It was a positive response to the proposal made by South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Berlin last July. Let’s hear again from former Unification Minister Jeong.
When I heard Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address, I thought things would turn out well starting this year. It was an answer to the message of peace that the Moon government in South Korea had sent to the North. Having suffered from many difficulties, including international pressure and sanctions, North Korea finally grabbed Seoul’s hand to join the international community. The participation in the PyeongChang Olympics was the beginning of that process.
The South Korean government proposed inter-Korean talks right away, and the North restored a communication line at the truce village of Panmunjom. Meanwhile, South Korea and the U.S. agreed to postpone their annual combined military exercises that were initially scheduled for February to create a favorable mood for North Korea’s participation in the Olympics. Here again is Professor Jeong.
A change should be made in a peaceful way. If South Korea drives the North into a corner or isolates it when inducing the nation to participate in the Olympics and engage in dialogue, it will shadow the peace efforts. Rather, South Korea should listen to the North, accept its request unless it runs counter to basic principles and wait with patience. I think the process has been smooth on the whole.
A high-level North Korean delegation attended the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics. When athletes from the two Koreas marched together, President Moon and his wife shook hands with the delegates from the North, with a smile on their faces. Without a doubt, the scene will be recorded as a historic moment. In this way, a very special Olympics kicked off.
Numerous athletes set new records at this year’s Olympics, with spectators around the world erupting in cheers. Koreans especially lavished praise on skeleton racer Yun Seong-bin, who claimed his first Olympic gold medal with a new record in men’s skeleton, as well as the women’s short track skating team. In the women’s 3,000 meter relay preliminaries, Lee Yu-bin fell down with 23 laps remaining. The mishap set the Korean team nearly a full lap behind others, but the four female skaters managed to catch up in an incredible fashion and finished first to set an Olympic record. In addition to the athletes who won praise for breaking Olympic records, many others from various parts of the globe displayed the Olympic spirit of challenge, harmony and peace to leave a deep impression on the entire world.
Among the participating nations, Ecuador, Malaysia, Singapore, Eritrea, Kosovo and Nigeria made their first ever Winter Olympics appearances. The East African country of Eritrea achieved independence after 30 years of struggle against Ethiopia. But countless Eritrean refugees are scattered throughout the world. Let’s hear from Walder Baren, the head of the Eritrean Olympic delegation.
There are a lot of Eritreans in Canada, Europe and North America. You know, they have a chance now to (enjoy) skiing and winter sports. Hopefully, this would help them recognize that they could actually be out in the cold and ski and enjoy the winter … The Olympics is about sports, peace and coming together. Hopefully, there will be peace in our region and all the different countries can work together, support each other and settle conflict. We are all humans and all we want to do is to live in peace, support our family and raise our kids.
At the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, Jamaica competed in the bobsleigh event. The unexpected, dramatic challenge inspired the popular movie, “Cool Runnings,” which touched the hearts of many people all over the world. Thirty years on from the Jamaican men’s bobsleigh team’s Olympic breakthrough, the Caribbean country sent its first women’s bobsleigh team to the PyeongChang Winter Games. Here is Leo Campbell, head of the Jamaican Olympic team at PyeongChang.
So we have a specific message. It’s more about a message to women around the world. They want to send a message to young girls all around the world that they can in fact take on this very traditional men’s sport, they can drive a bobsled and they can go really fast just like the men can. And if they can do it, then they hope to present themselves as role models to young girls that they can in fact also do it as well.
It was the joint South and North Korean women’s ice hockey team that attracted worldwide attention during the PyeongChang Olympics.
For the first-ever unified Korean team in Olympics history, South Korea fielded 23 players and North Korea added another 12. It was agreed that at least three North Korean players would appear in each game. But there were concerns over the joint team, which was created in a rather hasty way, as some South Korean players who had long prepared for the Olympics might lose their spot at the games. Sarah Murray, head coach of the joint Korean women’s ice hockey team, also frowned upon the idea, since there simply was not enough time for the athletes from the two Koreas to come together as one team, with only 20 days left before the Olympics.
On January 25, 12 North Korean athletes arrived at Jincheon National Training Center and joined the training session right away.
It was far from easy to communicate, as South and North Korean athletes used different ice hockey terms and the head coach spoke in English. When Murray explained something in English, South Korean assistant coach Kim Do-yun translated it into Korean. If North Korean players didn’t understand it, North Korean coach Pak Chol-ho gave them a demonstration. That’s how training proceeded. Chong Su-hyon, a North Korean ice hockey player who was part of the joint Korean team, talks about some of the initial difficulties she faced after joining the team.
#2: It was very inconvenient at first because 50 percent of words used by South Koreans were foreign to me. But as time went by, things got better.
Considering the importance of teamwork in ice hockey, understanding and cooperation among the athletes were essential. Murray assigned the lockers for the players from the two sides, mixing them together, so they could get along well quickly. She also formed small groups for training, with each consisting of two South Koreans and one North Korean, to help the North Korean players better understand the strategy. Just a week after the practice, the joint team set out on their Olympic journey.
On February 4, the unified Korean team played a friendly match against fifth-ranked Sweden at Incheon Asian Games Seon Hak International Ice Rink. Murray initially planned to position all the North Korean players to the fourth line, which mostly focuses on defense. But she changed the plan and placed one on each line. In ice hockey, players are divided into four different lines, with each line having five players. Therefore, teamwork among the players in the same line is highly important. Let’s hear from Song Dong-hwan, ice hockey commentator at KBS.
In the course of practicing, it seems the head coach found that each North Korean player was suited to a particular line. So she placed North Korean players in different lines to generate the synergy effect, whether they played defense or offense.
The Korean team lost to Sweden 3-1. But given the short training period, it was considered a positive result. Murray and then North Korean coach Pak share their opinions.
North Korean players joined the training and we practiced together for about a week. We practiced the existing system and strategy together. The North Korean girls grasped them quickly and worked hard to follow our system. They did well in today’s match.
Through this match, I acutely felt that there’s nothing South and North Korea can’t do as long as they unite and do things together. I hope the two sides will gather all their energy, both physically and emotionally, during this short period and produce a good result.
That day, spectators showed their encouragement and support for the unified Korean team.
#1: It’s amazing to see them join forces to score a goal. I believe they will do a great job. I hope the girls will not get hurt. I love the joint team!
#2: I can’t tell North Korean players from South Korean ones as they are wearing the same uniform. See? We can become one, as long as we stay together. I hope South and North Korea will become one as early as possible.
Worries about the unified team turned into support and expectations for the athletes.
The joint South and North Korean women’s ice hockey team had its first Olympic game against Switzerland at the Kwandong Hockey Center in Gangneung on February 10.
The audience and the cheering squad from North Korea shared the historic moment, chanting for “Team Korea” throughout the match. The audience included President Moon and high-level North Korean officials, who rose up from their seats at exciting moments and cheered for the unified team.
However, the sixth-ranked Switzerland team proved to be too strong for Korea, as the European side easily won the match 8-0. Still, the audience gave the Korean players a standing ovation when the game was over, chanting “good enough.” Commentator Song talks about how he felt after the match.
Although the joint team suffered a huge defeat, the players tried their best with one will and one mind at their first Olympic game. It was a touching scene. Looking at them playing hard together, I thought it was truly a unified team.
Foreign reporters were also greatly interested in the joint Korean team’s first Olympic match. They paid attention to the meaning of the unified team, rather than the game result. Let’s hear first from Jillian Ladner, a freelance journalist from LA, and then Radio France reporter Richard Vivion.
#1: They’re facing some challenges on the ice, but I think that they’re doing a phenomenal job, considering that they didn’t have enough time to come together as a team...I really hope that when people look back on this Olympics, they consider it the peace games so they note it for being something that inspired peace, not just in Korea but throughout the world.
#2: It is sports, not politics. Maybe peace will not arrive tomorrow, but it’s one step. If the Olympics can show a way to peace, it’s a good thing. I heard Canadian and American coaches say that Korea showed great teamwork. Honestly, maybe it’s not the most important. The most important part is that athletes from the two Koreas played together and showed that the country can be maybe unified, can be one.
Two days later, Korea was thrashed by Sweden 8-0 in its second Group B match.
Team Korea and Japan held their last group match on February 14. Japan is ranked ninth in the world, while South Korea is 22nd and North Korea is 25th. In the second period, Randi Heesoo Griffin scored Korea’s first goal at the Olympics.
South and North Korean athletes embraced each other to share the joy, while coaches Murray and Pak raised their hands high. The audience was thrown into a state of feverish excitement. Randi Heesoo Griffin’s family was among them. Heesoo was born to an American father and South Korean mother who moved to the U.S. when she was ten years old. Here is Heesoo’s mother, who watched her daughter scoring the historic goal.
I’m proud of all the athletes. This is a team sport, and all the members did their best. They were great. I’m glad that my daughter came here to spend time with these athletes and become one of the team members. The girls are all amazing. You did a great job Randi!
Korea ended up losing to Japan 4-1, but the game deeply impressed Korean people. There had been no contact between the two Koreas, but they worked hard together for about 20 days to create one team. Much of the credit should go to Murray who successfully led Team Korea amid public expectations and concerns. Here she is talking about how she appreciates the athletes’ efforts and fighting spirit.
This game against Japan was the best match for Korea at the Olympics. The players did really well. They allowed two goals, just five minutes into the first period. But they never gave up, and I’m proud of them. They made a lot of effort to learn and play. They taught and helped each other. About two days later, North Koreans came to learn even more. They made a great effort.
At the Olympics, Team Korea had five losses, scoring two goals and conceding 28 goals. But many people gave their full support to the joint team, which fought as best they could in a short period of time. As a matter of fact, the team drew special attention throughout the Olympics. Seats for the three preliminary matches for Korea were sold out, and the spectators’ unwavering support was a great encouragement to the athletes. Meanwhile, the audience and cheering squads from South and North Korea became another “Team Korea.”
When North Korean cheerleaders sang songs, the atmosphere at the hockey center heated up. When they cheered by doing the waves, South Koreans in the audience did the same, with Mexican waves rolling across the stands. Let’s hear from some of those in the crowd.
#1: I joined the North Korean cheerleaders doing the waves, and I felt thrilled and happy. The audience and the cheerleaders never practiced together in advance, but they created perfect harmony probably because they are the same Korean people.
Murray, who has led Team Korea for about a month, talks about how she feels about this special experience.
I hate to part with the girls. I told them before the game that it would be the last match for us. I also said that politicians decided to form the joint team, but it was the athletes who made it possible. The athletes were all great, and so they were able to play together as a team. I’m very proud of them. We did a really good job.
The PyeongChang Winter Games wrapped up its 17-day journey filled with passion and challenge to complete the Olympics of peace successfully. The event was indeed a special stage to inspire people the world over to ponder and experience peace. Let’s hear again from Professor Jeong.
Until the second half of last year, tension between North Korea and the U.S. heightened to the point of a military clash. But the high tension has been diffused for nearly three months as a result of the South Korean government’s consistent efforts and North Korea’s participation in the Olympics, although security threats are still lingering in this part of the world. Peace will not come about overnight just because of the Olympics. But looking at the joint march of the two Koreas, cheers for athletes and the sharing of friendship among people from various parts of the world, many will come to believe that this kind of life will be a lot more beneficial for Northeast Asia. If the two Koreas continue to conduct cultural and sports exchanges peacefully, security jitters in the region could be eased. I think the PyeongChang Olympics showed this example.
What will happen after the PyeongChang Olympics is anybody’s guess. The fever and enthusiasm for peace may fade out when people get back to their normal lives. But North Korea’s participation in this year’s Winter Games and what South Koreans felt when rooting for the unified Korean team will certainly be recorded as something meaningful in terms of inter-Korean relations and world peace. Here is U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The Olympic spirit is the most important symbol of peace in today’s world. Unfortunately, we see so many conflicts and so many victims dramatically impacted by those conflicts. The Olympic spirit allows people to be together from all over the world, to respect each other, to develop tolerance and mutual understanding, the basic elements for peace to be possible. Obviously, in the present context, there is a lot of attention for this message of peace in relation to the Korean Peninsula. They want to say very clearly that the Olympic message of peace is not local, it’s universal. It’s for the whole world. We try to address many complex conflicts that we’re facing.
Here’s hoping that South and North Korea will communicate with each other, starting with this year’s Winter Olympics, and settle enduring peace on their divided peninsula. And the peace will hopefully move beyond the Korean Peninsula and spread to conflict regions around the world. Some fans now tell us about how they hope the PyeongChang Games can be the start of a more peaceful era on the Korean Peninsula.
#3: (English) And here’s hoping that it doesn’t end at the Olympics. People start talking. If they can at least talk, allowing other nations to become involved in Korean businesses or Korean problems, they can allow Koreans to solve their own problems.
#4: The joint Korean team symbolizes genuine peace. I hope it will show a war-free Korean Peninsula and one Korea to the world. Peace cannot be achieved for free. The process is tough, but we can create it together. I do hope that South Korea will be reborn as a peacemaker through the PyeongChang Olympics.
(Photo : Yonhap)