The joint North and South Korean ice hockey team lost 3-1 on their debut in a friendly with Sweden.
Fans waved miniature white-and-blue flags depicting a map of a unified Korean Peninsula, the same design on the players’ uniforms. Instead, after the Swedish anthem, the Koreans played the traditional folk song “Arirang”.
“Despite these overtures to improve relations with the South, North Korea has yet to show any intention to fulfill its global obligations regarding denuclearization”, said South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha last month. He left the postgame news conference without taking questions.
Defectors said it was a myth that North Korean athletes had been threatened with death for losing, but they risked censure if they failed to perform well against politically sensitive rivals such as South Korea, Japan and the United States.
The North dispatching a high-level delegation was part of agreements the two Koreas struck last month over Olympic cooperation. During the 1950-53 Korean War, the USA rulers and their allies failed to conquer the entire peninsula and crush the revolution in the North, despite carpet bombing that destroyed nearly every building there.
The United States says it is not aware of any specific threats to the upcoming Winter Olympics and it’s confident that American athletes, coaches and spectators will be safe, despite heightened tensions with North Korea.
These tensions recently came to a head when Trump’s pick for ambassador to South Korea was booted, prompting a biting op-ed in the Washington Post.
We are less than two weeks away from the Winter Olympics, the grandest stage of athletic achievement and cultural diversity.
However, North Korean coach Pak Chol-ho, was more upbeat.
To help visitors stay warm during the ceremonies, the local organizers said they will install windscreens around the stadium to block powerful winds.
The Korean players, at least on the surface, appear to be getting along.
They will compete under the name “Korea”, with the unification flag displayed.
“They couldn’t catch up with new trends and are still playing in an old style”. A Special Weapons and Tactics team will also search Olympic venues to check for bombs, protect athletes and visitors and protect against attempts to assassinate key figures, said a police inspector in September.
After all, that is what these Winter Olympics are all about, right? The number of rubbers made available in the years since have more than quadrupled.
“The unified team is politically contaminated”, said Cho Young-hwan, 58.
Not everyone was happy.
The duo, Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, is the focus of intense media attention as they were the only North Korean athletes who were initially qualified to compete in the Pyeongchang Games before their Olympic committee missed a confirmation deadline.