What does a united Korea in Olympics mean?

A New York Times article featured this photo of a united Korean team at the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

The Olympic theme this year is peace and to convey this, several measures have been taken, from bonding during the opening ceremonies to North and South Korean athletes marching under one flag.

But one other way to show the theme is the merging of South Korea’s women’s hockey team with North Korea’s team for the Olympics.

Some see the move as a major sign of peace.

Others, however, view it as a political ploy.

This new combined Korean team is composed of 12 North Koreans and 23 South Koreans, but for games only 22 can dress and play.  The South Korean team had to remove 12 players from their roster to make room for the 12 North Korean players.

At least three North Koreans must be dressed to play each game.  Castleton freshman Casey Trail, a defender on the women’s hockey team, seemed to feel sorry for the South Korean players, but support the idea.

“I mean, I guess that must have been tough for the South Korean team to have done, especially if they had to sacrifice more talented players for others,” she said. “But I think if you look at the big picture of it, they are standing for a lot more than just a hockey team right now and that’s a big deal and is worth it in my eyes.”

The new teammates only met two weeks before the games, a very short time to build team cohesion and chemistry, Castleton University women’s head hockey coach Ashley Salerno said.

“It can take a long time to build these things and many other countries have been practicing together for a long time leading up to the Olympics. They have had time to train for months together and to play games and engage in team bonding events. The Korean team has not had this opportunity, which will certainly make it more difficult for them,” Salerno said.

North and South Korea are technically at war, which probably doesn’t  bring together very much bonding room within the team.  But with the Olympic theme of peace, perhaps this is a demonstration of that.

“I think it’s a great thing to bring them back together in a peaceful way.  It’s a small thing, but it means a lot,” Trail said.

Salerno seemed a little more doubtful about any real impact from the merging.

“I have heard some people talk about how this merging of the teams could help bring peace between the two countries, but I doubt that the merging of their women’s hockey teams will matter much on a large scale. I hope it will, but am skeptical that it will cause any real change,” Salerno said.

The opening ceremonies were Friday night and were a fantastic display of South Korean culture and the Olympic theme of peace.  The host country always comes out last in the Parade of Nations.

When the joined team emerged, the stadium lit up.  The flag they marched under was all white with the entire Korean peninsula in light blue in the middle.  A North Korean and South Korean athlete carried the flag together leading the rest of the athletes around the circular stage.

They were indistinguishable from each other.  South Korean athletes have been doing well in their strongest sport of speed skating, but the women’s hockey team had their first Olympic game Saturday and lost 8-0.  The stands were filled with fans and you couldn’t help but wish they would score.

North Korea sent several cheerleaders who cheered and chanted in Korean.  Other than their bright red outfits, very organized flag waving, and men that stood in the aisles and watched other them, they matched the mood of the stadium.

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