North and South Korea To Carry Single Flag In Winter Olympics Opening

IANS | 0
| January 18 , 2018 , 18:58 IST

Bitter cross-border enemies North and South Korea on Wednesday said both countries would march under a single flag during the opening ceremony of the upcoming Winter Olympics.

The development comes amid talks aimed at reducing tensions between the two nations still technically engaged in internecine war, Efe news agency reported. 

The two Koreas are also set to field a joint women's ice hockey team to participate in the Games, which are to take place from February 9-25 in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang, located just a relatively-small distance away from the demilitarised zone that has separated the countries since 1953, when hostilities between them ended albeit without a peace accord.

It was at the DMZ's Joint Security Area in Panmunjom that delegations from both Koreas, holding the first high-level talks in over two years, struck the deal, signalling an implicit detente in the diplomatic tensions that had seen a dramatic uptick in the past few years amid the North's ongoing ballistic missile testing programme.

Korean athletes from both states had already marched under the same "unification" flag -- a light-blue silhouette of the peninsula on a white background -- during the opening ceremonies for the Sidney 2000 and Athens 2004 Summer Olympics.

The decision to form a joint team in the women's ice hockey category, however, was met with considerable controversy in South Korea, as some fans believe it could hurt the country's prospects of earning a medal.

This would mark the third time the two nations compete under the same banner at a sporting event, following the 1991 ping pong world championship and the Under-20 soccer world cup held that same year.

While many welcomed the progress in the rapprochement between two countries that are technically still engaged in a fratricidal conflict frozen in time by a 65-year-old armistice, others cautioned against mistaking Pyongyang's diplomatic overtures for a radical shift in its belligerent foreign policy. 

For instance, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono warned that the world should avoid being blinded by what he described as a North Korean "charm offensive".