Have you ever seen a gangster film such as “The Godfather” or “Pulp Fiction?” If not, they usually focus on a few key aspects: there is a head honcho or ringleader that keeps everyone else in line. The people beneath said leader follow orders obediently for fear that they will become the next victim should they stray from their roles. Usually the leader is preordained by hereditary monarchy rules and they use force and extreme punishment, death being the most common, to keep their subjects in line.
So, what’s the point of this? It functions as decent analogy for the relationship present between North and South Korea so far in the Winter Olympics. South Korea has been struggling recently to keep North Korea pleased. To achieve this goal, an agreement was made in the past week that North Korea would participate in the Olympics if their tab would be paid for entirely; a hefty tab amounting to about $2.6 million.
Aside from the troublesome money dealings, the Olympics have been running smoothly. The South Korean government is willing to put forth any means to remedy their relations with their Northern counterpart. And it seems to be working. The North Korean leader seems to consider the Olympic-related reconciliation to be a success; Kim Jong Un claimed that it was “very impressive” that the South has “specially prioritized” the North Koreans during their visit.
Despite the current cordial arraignments, the main discussion during the Olympics has turned to peace between the Koreas being possible. In all honesty, most signs point to “no” being the most likely of answers. While North Korean athletes may exhibit proper manners on how to live together in peace and harmony, their leaders have not.
Back in 1988, when South Korea held its first Olympics, North Korea attempted to disrupt the Games before they began by blowing up a South Korean airplane and the 115 passengers inside. However, due to their efforts failing to cancel the games, North Korea boycotted their involvement. 30 years later, Kim Jong Un is tampering with missiles and the North Korean Olympic team, at the peak of festivities in Pyongyang, are enjoying the spotlight while the South Korean government pays for their bill.
Despite these factors, the fact that North Korea has come to the Olympics is a fairly large breakthrough. After threats of nuclear warfare, the Olympics have served as a talking ground for both sides. In the opening ceremony, South Korean President, Moon Jae In, made history by shaking hands with Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s head of state, and Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister.
However, we’ve seen this type of maneuver in the past. In fact, this same occurrence has happened nine times before this. During the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the North and South Korean athletes walked out together into the opening ceremony donning matching uniforms, a scene that closely resembled their arrival to this year’s Olympics.
Although behind the scenes of the 2000 Olympics, South Korea was again at the mercy of the North. North Korea demanded that the South pay for their uniforms and reduce their numbers of marchers so the North athletes wouldn’t feel outnumbered. Meanwhile, the South Korean government secretly paid the North hundreds of millions of dollars just to attend the earlier summit.
Aside from the momentary pause in the escalation of tensions between North Korea and South Korea, these gestures probably won’t last. After all, in previous Olympics, these circumstances have happened before. For example, following the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Adolf Hitler hid his secret intent only to initiate World War II and the Holocaust shortly after.
In more recent events, Vladimir Putin also exploited the Sochi Olympics to disguise his motions insert military into Ukraine. While the Games might serve as momentary peace, the idea that they may lead to long lasting results are extremely unlikely and at best, wishful thinking.