ATHLETIC DIPLOMACY

IAN WARD ’19 | ONLINE EDITOR • Tonight is the beginning of a first-ever diplomatically fueled joint sports team, as North and South Korea joined together to form a joint Women’s ice hockey team. In addition to the joint hockey team, the North Koreans will be competing in Winter Olympic sports as a nation for the first time since 2010. This monumental move in sports history is not the first instance of athletic diplomacy, however, it is the first instance of a joint national team. So, what does this mean both politically and athletically for a peninsula that is still technically at war and is increasingly under scrutiny from the United States and the world?

Regarding sports, the team acts as most any other team would, however behind the vial of the world, there are vast differences between this team and others at the 2018 Olympics. First off, the hockey team plays under a united “Korean” team name, and the jersey is a simple map-like cut out of the entire peninsula, with KOREA blazoned across the chest. This differs from most Olympic jerseys, expect the Russian athletes this year as no sovereign state has formed a regional team. Secondly, according to Matthew Wells, Assistant Professor of Political Science, it is very fair to believe that the team as a whole is not in contact much, if at all off the ice due to the vast political differences. This lack of interaction can be explained as in the past there has been a history of political defections while athletes are abroad in democratic and or non-authoritarian nations.

Also, security around the North Korean athletes are very high. Their protectors will limit their interaction with other athletes during the games in Pyeongchang.

Another facet of this interesting agreement is the possibility of favorable political action towards North Korea. According to Wells, “The most [Kim Jong] Un can hope for is the removal of [economic] sanctions”. These sanctions have been revved up in the last 12- 24 months as nuclear tests have ramped up in that time period, and increasing strong rhetoric from President Trump have heightened tensions. These increased sanctions tightened the grasp of the world on North Korea’s neck as all trade is now effectively banned, and the internal state of North Korea appears to be evermore desperate.

However, according to Wells, this lifting of sanctions is very unlikely as the United States has not been apart of the athletic diplomacy at all, and in fact Trump has tweeted his displeasure of North Korea after the diplomatic talks began. It is also unlikely for there to be changing of sanctions actions as this diplomacy is seen as a farce that is not- truly sincere but instead a small screen trying to cover up a larger issue.

Only time will tell if this assumption is true, however the United Women’s Hockey Team and North Korean participation will definitely be a story worth following throughout the 2018 Olympics. Stay tuned for our weekly medal count to run in future issues of The Bachelor.