The Winter Olympics starts next week in South Korea and much interest has focused on the fact that North Korea is sending a squad and some events will feature the two countries fielding joint teams. Given the heightened tensions between the US and North Korea, I found this article to be helpful in providing a brief summary of the 20th century history of the two countries as well as the state of their current cultural relationship.
The North Koreans are not as isolated as the impression sometimes given in the media, especially when it comes to sporting and cultural exchanges.
North Korea is a regular participant at international sports events despite its pariah status. They’re not even doing that badly. North Korea has won 56 Olympic medals, 16 of them gold- but only two came from the Winter Games.
Although the North boycotted the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, they have attended other competitions in the South. In the 2002 Asian Games in Busan they won nine gold medals and secured 33 spots on the podium.
There will be 22 athletes from the North, but none are thought to be medal prospects.
The teams will march at the opening ceremony as one country, under a single “unified Korea” flag.
The flag shows the entire Korean peninsula in blue on a white background and has made an appearance at previous sporting events.
In the run-up to the Olympics, some South Korean skiers participated in a joint training programme at a ski resort in the North.
Twelve female ice hockey players from North Korea will also participate as part of a joint team with the South, but all other athletes will compete for their respective countries, including two North Korean skiers who will take part in the Paralympics in March.
Alongside 22 athletes, the country is sending an 400-strong delegation to the games.
Among those will be a will be a team of cheerleaders, 30 taekwondo practitioners and a 140-member orchestra, the nationalist Samjiyon Band, dishing out patriotic songs.
As for me, I will likely not watch any of the Olympics because they almost never show on network TV the only event that I care about and that is curling, and if they do it will be at some weird time.