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South Korea Wins Winter Olympics — Should North Korea Co-Host?




A man walks along a row of banners with the logo of South Korea's mountain resort of Pyeongchang, 180 kms east of Seoul, on July 7, 2011 after the mountain resort was picked to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

A man walks along a row of banners with the logo of South Korea's mountain resort of Pyeongchang, 180 kms east of Seoul, on July 7, 2011 after the mountain resort was picked to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

Amidst the jubilation surrounding South Korea's victory over Germany and France to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, an uncomfortable proposition was made: Should North Korea be allowed to co-host?

On Monday, just five days after the first cheers in Pyeongchang, opposition Democratic Party chairman Sohn Hak-kyu proposed the idea at a meeting with other government officials.

"Our preparations for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will go beyond forming a single South-North team and constructing a joint training base," Sohn said to the Wall Street Journal. "We want to create a turning point in the Republic of Korea’s history of division and a turning point for world peace."

But North Korean officials in Pyongyang said that they would only consider it if relations improve. Jang Ung, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), hopes the Koreas can come to a clean solution.

"The situation between two parts of Korea should not be deteriorated any further. That's my hope," Jang told the AFP. "The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang would be held very near the military demarcation line. If something happens, the whole Games could be destroyed."

The two Koreas' share a strained relationship when it comes to the Olympics — and just about everything else. North Korea and South Korea marched separately in the 2008 Beijing Olympics after having marched under a unifed flag at Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004. The last time South Korea hosted the Olympics, North Korea was not too happy about it.

“The first time [Korea hosted an Olympics] was in Seoul in the summer of 1988 — an enormous success by any measure — which also helped usher in a new wave of democratization in South Korea, though it was partly marred by a boycott from North Korea,” says Michael Kulma, Asia Society’s Executive Director of Global Leadership Initiatives.

"While there is no need on the South Korean political front for an internal movement as occurred over 20 years ago, some have called for North Korea to play a role in sharing hosting duties for some events. This is not beyond the realm of possibility, but significant hurdles would have to be overcome to make it happen as current relations between North and South are far from positive."