October 02, 2022

Less Than Sporting Behavior

Sport has had in the past a surprisingly large role in the inter-Korean relationship. It is one of the soft-power routes open to North Korea to improve its international image and standing without making any real concessions. On the other side of the 38th parallel, united Korean sporting events and achievements have also historically proven popular.  The South Korean public have been historically rather apathetic to most images or issues related to unification. However, the success of the recent movie Korea (titled ‘As One’ in some countries) shows that one area the South feels happy to embrace their cousins is in the field of sports. The movie tells the tale of a united Korea team at the '91 Table Tennis World Championships, following the same vein as the friendly (the definition of the match type, not a description of it) soccer matches and the joint entrance into the Athens Olympics in 2004.  In contrast, the London 2012 games were a missed opportunity for inter-Korean unity, albeit one that no one seemed interested in anyway.

Both the Koreas have had an exciting and relatively successful time of it in London, with South Korea finishing 5th in the table with 13 golds and North Korea with 4 golds.  Despite these individual successes, inter-Korean relations at the games were mixed to say the least.