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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 30)

2017/11/30 07:11

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Remember Seoul Olympics

NK is challenge to overcome for successful PyeongChang Games

North Korea Wednesday broke its 70-day "silence" to fire a long-range missile that flew over Japan to splash down in the Pacific.

The North's latest provocation followed U.S. President Donald Trump's Asian tour that included a stopover in Seoul amid a major show of force involving three aircraft carriers and other American strategic assets near the Korean Peninsula.

Hours after the provocation, Trump said, "We will take care of it." His terse statement was free from the usual bellicose rhetoric and obviously emphasized a "collective" approach involving South Korea, Japan and China in dealing with the North.

President Moon Jae-in said in an early-morning National Security meeting, "Peace won't be possible until the North stops its provocative military adventurism." He also indicated that the North's provocations might lead to a U.S. strike.

Once again, the Korean Peninsula is being thrown into a heightened state of tension in which a major conflict can't be ruled out. So much so that the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, scheduled for two months from now, may be pushed out of the immediate priorities' list, or even see serious doubts raised over whether it should be delayed or cancelled.

For those "doubters," Korea has a counterexample of Olympic proportions ― the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics. Twenty nine years ago, the world was in chaos with multiple conflicts taking place all over amid the U.S.-Soviet Union rivalry. The free world and the communist bloc had already exchanged Olympic boycotts ― in Moscow and Los Angeles in 1980 and 1984 respectively.

The divided world had then undergone a period of self-reflection, the momentum coming from the Seoul Olympics, the oxymoron ― Seoul being the capital of South Korea in a dormant state of war with North Korea from the 1950-53 fratricidal conflict, and the Olympics representing peace. The Soviets signed on at the last minute, bringing aboard other communist nations. Seoul together with the International Olympic Committee tried its best right up to the last possible minute to invite the North to participate but Pyongyang refused to attend.

Still, the Seoul Games were conducted without major incident. Now, it is often looked at as an example of how humankind chose peace over conflict and changed the course of the future.

The flip side of the North Korean provocation is a chance for the world to try and make a "Seoul Olympics" out of the forthcoming PyeongChang Games. With the same perseverance the world showed 29 years ago, it needs to persuade the North to participate as well. Also it is imperative to create a "peaceful" atmosphere where Pyongyang gives up its animosity through, for instance, delaying South Korea-U.S. military exercises that overlap with the Games.

The dividends from a peaceful PyeongChang Olympics could be far greater than we anticipate.

(END)

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