[Editorial] Olympics are a time for magnanimity rather than petty bickering

Posted on : 2018-02-07 19:08 KST Modified on : 2018-02-07 19:08 KST
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a meeting of the Republican National Convention on Feb. 1.
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a meeting of the Republican National Convention on Feb. 1.

On Feb. 5, US Vice President Mike Pence announced that he would be bringing along the father of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died after being released from detention in North Korea, when he attends the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Pence will also reportedly be meeting with North Korean defectors while he is in South Korea. US media reports suggest that Pence is visiting South Korea not to celebrate the Olympics but to put pressure on North Korea and prevent it from hijacking the message of the Olympics.

Such an attitude not only goes against the spirit of the Olympics but is also very disrespectful to South Korea, the host of the Olympics. Prior to this, not only the South Korean government but also the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have worked hard to enable the North to participate in the Olympics and to set up a unified inter-Korean team. North Korea is even sending a cheerleading squad and a musical performance group. No doubt, this is an opportunity to convey that the regime is strong and to open up communication with the international community. But that doesn’t mean that either South Korea or the US will fall prey to North Korea’s propaganda campaign.

The debate about which regime is better ended a long time ago, and the entire world is only too aware of what things are really like in North Korea. But despite this, the Trump administration is making a fuss out of premature fears that any North Korean presence in the South will enable it to monopolize the Olympics. It makes you wonder how poorly they must think of the South Koreans who are hosting the Olympics.

The North Korean human rights record is a serious issue, and the US government has the right to openly criticize the North as much as it likes about Otto Warmbier’s detention and death. North Korea is clearly in the wrong, and no excuses can be made for it. Nevertheless, there is a time and place for everything. Showing up at someone else’s party and picking a fight with one of their guests betrays a complete lack of respect for the host. We hope that the US government will exhibit the magnanimity befitting a superpower by making a diplomatic effort to bring North Korea to the table for talks through the Pyeongchang Olympics.

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