NK Univer­si­ade pull­out damp­ens ef­fort to en­gage

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

North Korea’s de­ci­sion to boy­cott the up­com­ing Gwangju Univer­si­ade is an un­for­tu­nate one ty­ing sports with pol­i­tics.

On June 20 the Gwangju Univer­si­ade or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee re­ceived an email from Jon Kuk-man, the chief of North Korea’s univer­sity sports fed­er­a­tion, say­ing that North Korea would not be par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Univer­si­ade be­cause of Tues­day’s open­ing of the Seoul of­fice for the U.N. High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights. Py­ongyang had ear­lier planned to send 75 ath­letes and 33 of­fi­cials to the sports com­pe­ti­tion for univer­sity stu­dents.

While the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee held out hopes that the com­mu­nist state would not com­pletely with­draw from the game and Gwangju Mayor Yoon Jang-hyun said that he would wait un­til the last minute for North Korea to par­tic­i­pate, it seems un­likely that Py­ongyang will be send­ing a team. North Korea said in March that it would com­pete in seven events, but missed the June 3 reg­is­tra­tion dead­line as well as the late reg­is­tra­tion dead­line on June 15. North Korea’s with­drawal from the Gwangju Univer­si­ade is a step back­ward from the prac­tice of sep­a­rat­ing pol­i­tics and sports. Even when re­la­tions be­tween Seoul and Py­ongyang were cool, sports ex­changes of­ten con­tin­ued, serv­ing as valu­able op­por­tu­ni­ties for of­fi­cial ex­changes as well as ex­changes at the civil­ian level.

Last year, North Korea sent a large con­tin­gent to the In­cheon Asian Games and top-level of­fi­cials at­tended the clos­ing cer­e­mony, sig­nal­ing a pos­si­ble thaw in re­la­tions. In April 1991, dur­ing the World Ta­ble Ten­nis Cham­pi­onships in Chiba, Ja­pan, the two Koreas played to­gether un­der the name of Korea, fly­ing the flag of the Korean Penin­sula. As the play­ers stood on the podi­ums with medals, the folk song “Ari­rang” filled the venue. The two coun­tries also fielded a uni­fied soc­cer team in the FIFA World Youth Cham­pi­onship in Lis­bon in June 1991.

North Korea’s with­drawal from the Gwangju Univer­si­ade has put a damper on Seoul’s plans to hold a joint event to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of lib­er­a­tion from Ja­pan. The Gwangju Univer­si­ade was seen as an opportune oc­ca­sion for such a joint event, and ef­forts were made to form a uni­fied team, in­vite North Korean cheer­lead­ers and light the Univer­si­ade torch at the bor­der vil­lage Pan­munjeom. Those ef­forts have now come to naught. This is an abridged ver­sion of an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by The Korea Her­ald on June 23.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.