By Colin Jun
Pyeongchang, Korea is the host city for the twenty-third winter Olympic games. It is the second time Korea is hosting the Olympic Games since 1988 Seoul Olympics. The Olympics will start on February 9th with the Opening Ceremony and last 17 days until February 25th. 2952 athletes from 92 different countries, including North Korea, are expected to participate in the Olympics. Although the Winter Olympics is one of the most significant events of this year, it is undeniable that many people in and out of our school do not have much information about it - of course, Chinese New Year is an even more important event than the Olympics in China. So today, I would like to introduce several points that you need to know about the Olympics.
Talking about the Olympics without mentioning the Mascots is difficult. For Pyeongchang, there is one mascot for each Olympic games and Paralympic games. The Pyeongchang Olympics games mascot, Soohorang, is inspired by one of the famous guardian animals in Korea, the white tiger, which often appears as the symbol of braveness and protection in traditional Korean stories. The Pyeongchang Paralympics games mascot, Bandabi, is inspired by the Asian Black Bear. Bandabi represents the bravery and strong will of the Korean people and athletes.
Furthermore, Pyeongchang was able to host the Winter Olympics by applying as the Olympic candidate for three times in a row (almost twelve years!). Pyeongchang prepared to host the Winter Olympics since 2003; however, 2010 Winter Olympics was given to Vancouver, Canada and 2014 Winter Olympics was given to Sochi, Russia. As Pyeongchang continues to fail to host the winter Olympics, the skepticism towards “Organizing the committee of Pyeongchang Winter Olympics” increased. In 2010, defeating all the skepticism towards the Olympics, Pyeongchang finally could host the Winter Olympics.
The most controversial point of the Olympics is the Korean National Team - more specifically, “a single South and North Korea team.” Since 2013, when the host city of the 2018 Olympics was declared, the South Korean government suggested to the North to organize a single team for the Olympics. North Korea did not respond to the idea for a long time - some people even anticipated North Korea would not participate in Olympics (Park). In January 1st, through the New Year Message by Kim Jung Un, North Korea conveyed their interest of participating in the Olympics and discussing the South-North Korea Single Team. The discussion between the South and the North resulted in a decision to organize a single team for Women’s Ice Hockey and to do the joint parade in the Opening Ceremony under the Unification Flag (called Han-Ban-Do Ki).
The interesting point is the response of Korean citizens to the joint team and parade. In the past, most of the citizens supported the joint squad or joint march; however, in Pyeongchang 2018, the response of citizens is different than before. According to the research done by Korea Research in January, 63.3% of the people supported the joint parade between North and South Korea. The most controversial points were the Ice Hockey joint team (58.7% disagreed) and the use of the Unification flag for a joint parade (47.4% opposed). For the ice hockey joint team, many citizens are sensitive about providing special favor to the North Korean athletes, since it may appear as a notion ignoring the effort of South Korean athletes and violating the principle of equality - everyone should have the same opportunity in the same condition. For using the Unification flag in Opening Ceremony, the opposing group argues the South Korean team should use the South Korean flag in the Opening Ceremony as the host country of the Olympics. Nevertheless, many people agree that the North and South Korea joint team will contribute to the improvement in the relationship between South and North Korea and hope the joint team and joint parade can be the starting point for the reunification.
Of course, the most exciting part of the Olympics is the Games played by the athletes who have been prepared for this Olympics for a long time! Hence, pay attention and stay tuned to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics!
Colin Jun is both a writer for Pudong Press and an official youth ambassador for the South Korean 2018 Winter Olympic Games.