Peace or Propaganda: The “Unified” Korea


North Korean and South Korean athletes march into the Olympic Stadium in Pyeongchang under the same flag, with both a North Korean and South Korean athlete holding the flag. Photo via CNN

Lizzie Quinlivan, Contributing Writer

Despite being divided by the most dangerous border in the world, North Korea and South Korea marched under the same flag at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics, embodying the theme of the Pyeongchang Olympics: “Peace in Motion.”

Following the Korean War, North and South Korea divided into two separate countries, becoming brutal enemies. Sixty years later, the tension between the two countries remains. This tension has even grown in recent years, especially with the potential threat of North Korean nuclear weapons.

However, all of this seemed forgotten as competitors from the two countries walked side-by-side at the Olympics. 22 athletes from North Korea joined 118 South Korean athletes to make a unified Korean team of 140 athletes.

After the unified Korean team marched into the Olympic stadium, Korean musicians Ha Hyun-woo, Jeon In-kwon, Lee Eun Mi, and Ahn Ji Young performed John Lennon’s “Imagine,” a song that suggests the world should live in harmony and peace.

This song also symbolizes the hope for a peaceful future, which is the message behind both the “Peace in Motion” theme as well as the unified Korean team.

Sophomore Riley Potter thinks that “it is entirely possible that North and South Korea are going to make peace, but considering North Korea’s reputation, I think that it is pretty unlikely.”

The only sporting event in which athletes from the two countries competed alongside each other was hockey, where 12 North Korean athletes joined 23 South Korean athletes in an effort to defeat Finland, which was not successful. Although the team did not go far in the tournament, it was successful in performing in unity.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in also embodied the “Peace and Motion” theme, sitting near North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong at the Opening Ceremonies and during multiple athletic events.

However, the abrupt unification of the Koreas brings up the question if its purpose was actually to make peace with longtime enemies or if it was truly propaganda. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that North Korea would want to make peace with an enemy like South Korea without an ulterior motive.

North Korea is very familiar with the concept of propaganda. For example, members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team visited North Korea in 2013 to play a game against the North Korean basketball team. While there, the players were shown to experience vibrant cities full of people and lit-up buildings.

But this was most likely a form of propaganda, as satellite images during this time capture North Korea as being completely dark, which is impossible if the cities were always lit up. The point of this propaganda would be to persuade the American visitors that the life in North Korea was better than it actually is in reality.

This could very well be the case of the 2018 Olympics. By showcasing its athletes and joining with South Korea, North Korea may be using the unified team as a way to create the image that the two countries have peaceful relations.

Sophomore Claire Schnorr supports this theory, as she believes that “it is impossible that North Korea would just go and make peace. If anything, they are just doing this to prove their power.”

Although propaganda seems like the most likely explanation for the unification of the two teams, making peace could also be the reason. Taking into consideration that the theme of the Olympics was “Peace in Motion,” it is in the realm of possibility that the future of Korea could be a unified one.