Seoul's Presidential Blue House Denies North Korea Has Hijacked Olympics
Seoul’s presidential Blue House "rejected criticism on Tuesday that next month’s Winter Games had been hijacked by North Korea," saying that the event will "help defuse tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs," according to Hyonhee Shin of REUTERS. Some opposition politicians and conservatives in South Korea "have criticized North Korea’s participation" in the Games, dubbing them the "Pyongyang Olympics." Blue House spokesperson Park Soo-hyun said, "We’re confident that the Olympics will be a stepping stone to bring peace to the Korean peninsula, to Northeast Asia and the world." The administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in "is under pressure over its offer to send athletes to a North Korean ski resort for joint training" (REUTERS, 1/22).
'MESSAGE OF PEACE': YONHAP's Yoo Jee-ho reported IOC President Thomas Bach said that bringing together the two nations, which "remain technically at war with each other," will represent a "powerful signal of the wish of the peace." He said, "We're in a historic situation. We have two divided states, which are technically at war because there is no peace treaty. Athletes from these two states are technically at war. They will join in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games (on Feb. 9) and send the message of peace" (YONHAP, 1/23).
STAYING WARM: YONHAP's Joo Kyung-don reported PyeongChang 2018 organizers on Tuesday "announced a set of measures to keep visitors warm from the host city's freezing weather" during the outdoor opening and closing ceremonies. PyeongChang "is known as one of the coldest regions in South Korea." To help visitors stay warm during the ceremonies, the organizers said that they will "install wind screens around the stadium to block powerful winds." They will also place 40 portable gas heaters between aisles and rows of the seats (YONHAP, 1/23).
K-POP EXPECTED: YONHAP reported "K-pop guru" Kim Young-jun is among South Korea's delegation visiting the North's mountain resort to "arrange a joint cultural event to mark the PyeongChang Winter Olympics," a government agency said Tuesday. The 12-member team arrived in the North on Tuesday for a three-day visit to inspect venues for inter-Korean joint ski training and cultural performance. The inclusion of Kim, the new president and CEO of the state-run Korea Creative Content Agency, in the advance team "raised expectation that K-pop songs will be featured in the gala show to be held on the North's scenic Mount Kumgang" (YONHAP, 1/23).
PARADE DAY: KYODO reported North Korea "appears to be preparing to hold a huge military parade in Pyongyang" the day before the PyeongChang Olympics begin, as it has reportedly designated Feb. 8 as Korean People's Army foundation day. A South Korean government source reportedly said that a rehearsal is being held at Mirim airfield in Pyongyang for a military parade, with "the mobilization of about 13,000 North Korean soldiers and around 200 pieces of military equipment" (KYODO, 1/23).
SECOND THOUGHTS?: KYODO also reported North Korea indicated Tuesday it "may not join" next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea, after a conservative group there "burned a big picture" of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the country's national flag. A South Korean conservative organization held a protest rally on Monday against North Korea's participation in the Olympics "when a Pyongyang delegation arrived at Seoul central train station." The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement, "We cannot but take a serious consideration of our follow-up measures regarding the Winter Olympics" (KYODO, 1/23).