When Ex Enemies Believe in a ‘Peaceful Future’

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Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, watches the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)

The enduring power of using sports used by the International Olympic Committee at that Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea that brought North Korean athletes to join their brothers in South Korea under a united flag cannot be overemphasized.

Every student of history is aware that the spread of communism in Korea led to a battle that was brief yet bloody, and a national divide that exists to this day. To get my point clear let me give a brief review of the Korean War that lasted from 1950-1953.

It was on June 25, 1950, that the Korean War began. Some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. In a war that the United States considered as a war against the forces of international communism, and by the time the war came to an end in July 1953, some 5 million soldiers and civilians have lost their lives. (www.history.com).

The division between the two divided nations still exists today, and the demilitarized zone between the two nations is highly manned by North Korea with heavy weaponry and many from the North that tried to run to the South across the demilitarized (DMZ) zone was gunned down the North. Kim, who in the not-so-distant past threatened to annihilate South Korea, invited Moon to visit for talks by letter delivered by his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong. The younger Kim visited the South as part of the official North Korea delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics — the first time someone for the North’s ruling Kim family visited the South in more than 70 years.

As an Olympian, I was struck by that remarkable achievement through the spirit of Olympism, the ancient Greek ideal that celebrates co-existence and the joy that comes from sincere effort through physical excellence (sport). Impressively, South Korea’s President Moon described the visit by the North as a success and expressed optimism it would lead to better relations between the two Koreas.

Why Olympians are not saying the two Koreans have finally resolved their differences, we are grateful that the enduring appreciation of sports and the spirit of Olympism made possible through the expression of unity, when many thought it was not possible.

The International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, in his speech during the closing ceremony, said by marching together at the Winter Games, athletes from South and North Korea showed they both believe in “a peaceful future.” He said athletes from the divided Koreas showed that sport brings peoples together and builds bridges and promised that the IOC “will continue this Olympic dialogue” after the games and hailed the Pyeongchang Olympics as “the games of new horizons.”

And that is why the Liberia National Olympic Committee (LNOC) should exert efforts in its mediatory role in resolving intractable conflicts that are tearing local federations and associations apart in the country.

About the author: Journalist Omari Jackson graduated from the International Olympic Committee in Ancient Olympia in 1989 and went to his first Olympiad in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga., United States.

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