Set in what is known as the Alps of Korea, the South Korean city of Pyeongchang will be welcoming millions of athletes and tourists starting on Feb. 9 for the 2018 Winter Olympics. In preparation for the games, the small city has added new highways and a high-speed train station, and many restaurants and hotels have been upgraded to accommodate the expected influx of people. The residents of Pyeongchang express a sense of excitement and honor to be able to welcome and show the world the beauty of their region, but this does not come without the hesitation of a certain country that will be taking part in the competitions.
North and South Korea have officially remained at war since the official division of the two countries in 1954, and recent wariness of North Korea in the eyes of many nations has developed due to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s decision to accelerate the research and testing of nuclear missiles. Yet, in light of recent talks between North and South Korea, the two countries will be walking into the opening ceremonies under a white background flag with a solid outline of the Korean Peninsula that makes up North and South Korea. This will not be the first time that the two countries have marched into the Olympics under the same flag. During the 2005 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, the two countries walked into the ceremonies together but completely separated. This year, North and South Korea will be competing together as a joint team.
In accordance with recent agreements made under the watchful eye of the International Olympic Committee, North Korea will be sending 22 athletes to compete in ice hockey, figure skating, short track speed skating, cross-country skiing, and alpine skiing events. Most notably, 12 North Korean athletes will be partaking in the first joint Korean ice hockey team. In addition, a 230-member cheering group and a 140-member orchestra will be representing North Korea at the games.
Many countries have expressed skepticism that the participation of North Korea in the Winter Olympics will aid in political talks, but they have agreed that it would be safer to have North Korea participating in the Olympics rather than excluded.