North & South Korea and the Winter Olympics

Will a unified Korean Olympic team help ease tensions between the two nations, and possibly others? Learn what it took to make it happen with CLP’s current event.

Brought to teachers by Susie Marcus, CLP consultant, with CLP staff.

News Sources

U.S hails Olympic security plan; opposes North Korea military parade, by David Alexander, Reuters, January 31, 2018
“The U.S. State Department voiced displeasure on Wednesday over North Korean plans to stage a military parade on the eve of the Winter Olympics but assured Americans going to the games that South Korea’s security plan considered all contingencies.”
CLP: Examines safety concerns and what officials are watching for

North Korea Pulls Out of a Cultural Event With South Korea Ahead of the Winter Olympics by Hyung-Jin Kim, Time, January 30, 2018
“North Korea has cancelled one of the key joint cooperation projects with South Korea planned for next month’s Winter Olympics, officials said, further proving the delicate nature of ties between the rivals split for seven decades.”

Winter Olympics: IOC approves unified Korean team in opening ceremony, women’s hockey, by Rachel Axon, Time, January 20, 2018
“’The Olympic Games are always about building bridges,” Bach said. “They never erect walls. The Olympic spirit is about respect, dialogue and understanding. The Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula, and inviting the world to join in a celebration of hope.’”
CLP: Reminder that the Olympics have a goal of bringing people together peacefully.

North Korea Aligning With South Korea for the Winter Olympics is Already Causing Controversy, by Sean Gregory, Time, January 17, 2018
“The agreement between North Korea and South Korea to march under one flag for the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Feb. 9 would seem to suggest that sports could help achieve the ultimate diplomatic breakthrough.”

DIRCO Welcomes Bilateral Meeting Between North & South Korea, by Koketso Motau, Eyewitness News, January 11, 2018
“The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has welcomed the first high-level bilateral meeting in almost two years between North and South Korea.”
CLP: Global support for North and South Korea to talk

Last-minute North Korean visit sends Olympic planners scrambling, by Hyunjoo Jin & Jane Chung, Reuters, January 11, 2018
“The North announced its participation on Tuesday after the first inter-Korean talks in two years, soothing tensions for the time being that Pyongyang might test-fire another long-range missile. Its escalating series of missile tests over the past year has sparked talk of war on the divided peninsula. Behind the scenes, the logistics of bringing hundreds of North Korean officials, athletes, cheerleaders and artistic performers is a challenge for both sides, officials and analysts say.”
CLP: This is a good look at the preparations a nation has to make for the influx of visitors when hosting the Olympics.

Trump officials cast uncertainty about U.S. competing in South Korea Olympics, by Rick Maese, The Washington Post, December 7, 2017
“A White House spokeswoman said Thursday that “no official decision has been made” about whether the United States would be sending athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics in South Korea, echoing uncertainty expressed one day earlier by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.”

Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics, by Associated Press, The Oregonian, December 5, 2017
“Russian athletes will be allowed to compete at the upcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics as neutrals despite orchestrated doping at the 2014 Sochi Games, the International Olympic Committee said Tuesday.”
CLP: A different controversy with the winter Olympics; how might this change the games or how athletes view doping?


Questions to Consider

  • What is the history of the conflict between North and South Korea?
  • What is the Winter Olympics 2018? What is the symbolic meaning of the Olympics?
  • Does the location in Pyeongchang South Korea pose unique opportunities? Unique risks?
  • How might Olympic togetherness lessen the threat of nuclear strikes by North Korea? Is marching together a symbol or a real opportunity to promote peace on the Korean peninsula?
  • Is the decision to combine North and South Korean athletes challenging to the athletes and their coaches?
  • Are the Olympics a political issue? A power issue? An ethical issue? A feel good opportunity?
  • What is the history of the intersection between the Olympics and world issues?
  • Is security an issue in the 2018 Winter Olympics? Will the North Korean athletes be free to mingle with other athletes? Is there a risk that North Korean athletes might choose to ask for asylum while they are in South Korea?
  • Is there a possibility that North Korea might use the Olympics for their own purposes?
  • Is reunification of the two Koreas a possibility? What are the advantages to both North and South Korea? What is keeping them apart? Why might the South be concerned about reunification?
  • How does the IOC decision to prohibit Russian athletes from competing under the Russian flag affect the 2018 Winter Olympics?


Background and More

Where Are the 2018 Winter Olympics? What to Know About PyeongChang, South Korea

This quiet South Korean city prepares for hordes of foreigners at 2018 Winter Olympics, by Thomas Maresca, USA Today, January 30, 2018
“Gangneung has been preparing for the Games as the site for ice sports since nearby Pyeongchang, won the bid in 2011. To accommodate the hundreds of thousands expected for the Games, which start Feb. 9, the city upgraded highways, added a high-speed train station and spruced up restaurants and hotels.”

Who Will Represent Kim Jong Un at the Olympic Games? by Bloomberg, Time, January 17, 2018
“While North Korea is unlikely to disclose its chief delegate to the Games at the Pyeongchang ski resort at the meeting, South Korean media and analysts speculate it could be led by either Kim’s No. 2 official or his sister.”

A history of the unified flag the two Koreas will march under at the Winter Olympics, by Hailey Jo, Quartz, January 19, 2018
“This year won’t be the first time that the white-and-blue flag is being used—in previous periods of detente between the two countries, athletes representing both Koreas have marched under it.”

A not-so-brief history of politics and the Olympics, by Jaime Fuller, The Washington Post, February 5, 2014
“But these people weren’t paying very close attention to the Olympic games if they thought this was a recent phenomenon. Politics have been an essential part of the Olympics since Thucydides was covering them.”

Is Reunification Possible for North and South Korea? by Ji-Young Lee, Smithsonian, January 24, 2018
“The “Korean Unification Flag” is both a highly symbolic marker of reconciliation and a reminder of a divided Korea, a condition that has lasted since 1945.”

The Korean War armistice, BBC News, March 5, 2015
“The document, signed by US Lt Gen William K Harrison and his counterpart from the North’s army, General Nam Il, said it was aimed at a ceasefire “until a final peaceful settlement is achieved”.”

Olympic Dreams of a United Korea? Many in South Say, ‘No, Thanks’”, by Choe Sang-Hun, The New York Times, January 28, 2018
“Experts and recent surveys describe a profound shift in attitudes in South Korea, where reuniting the peninsula, and the Korean people, was long held as a sacrosanct goal. These days, younger South Koreans in particular are far more likely to see the idea of reintegrating their prosperous capitalist democracy with the impoverished, totalitarian North as unrealistic and undesirable.”


Lesson Plans

The Olympic Principles and Traditions, Scholastic

Lesson Plan: A Brief History of North Korea, The Lowdown

Politics and the Olympics, Scholastic


Constitutional and Legal Connections

How Does the Department of State Assist with the Olympics?, Discover Diplomacy

North Korea is sending a huge delegation to the Winter Olympics – but getting them there will be tricky, Rosie Perper and Tara Francis Chan, Business Insider, January 11, 2018
‘”South Korea will welcome North Korea and when they decide to come the South Korean government will allow them to come by road and when they have supporting teams the Korean government will allow them to come by ship,” Lee told Reuters.”

Trump Can’t Declare War on North Korea – Only Congress Can, Daniel L. Davis, The National Interest, November 17, 2017
“In 1793, James Madison—known as “the Father of the Constitution”—explained why the founders expressly withheld the power of declaring war from the president. He warned that it would not “be difficult to fabricate a power in the executive to plunge the nation into war,” that the prerogative for judging the necessity of war was “fully and exclusively vested in the legislature,” and emphasized that “the executive has no right, in any case to decide the question.”’


Oregon & the Northwest

Oregon Athletes Clinch 2018 Winter Olympics Slots, by Tom Banse, Oregon Public Broadcasting, January 17, 2018
“The full roster for the U.S. Olympic ski and snowboard team will be announced next week. Several more athletes with Pacific Northwest roots are in the hunt for remaining team slots.”


Oregon State Social Science Standards

8.8 Evaluate information from a variety of sources and perspectives.
8.26 Examine a controversial event, issue, or problem from more than one perspective.
8.27 Examine the various characteristics, causes, and effects of an event, issue, or problem.
8.28 Investigate a response or solution to an issue or problem and support or oppose, using research.
HS.1 Evaluate continuity and change over the course of world and United States history.
HS.2 Analyze the complexity and investigate causes and effects of significant events in world, U.S., and Oregon history.
HS.9 Identify historical and current events, issues, and problems when national interests and global interest have been in conflict, and analyze the values and arguments on both sides of the conflict.
HS.27 Examine functions an process of United Sates government.
HS.33 Explain the role of government in various current events.
HS.57 Define, research, and explain an event, issue, problem or phenomenon and its significance to society.
HS.58 Gather, analyze, use and document information from various sources, distinguishing facts, opinions, inferences, biases, stereotypes, and persuasive appeals.
HS.59 Demonstrate the skills and dispositions needed to be a critical consumer of information.
HS.60. Analyze an event, issue, problem, or phenomenon from varied or opposing perspectives or points of view.
HS.61 Analyze an event, issue, problem, or phenomenon, identifying characteristics, influences, causes, and both short- and long-term effects.
HS.63. Engage in informed and respectful deliberation and discussion of issues, events, and ideas.


We the People Lesson Connections

Middle School, Level 2

  • Unit 6, Lesson 28: What is the relationship of the United States to other nations in the world?

High School, Level 3

  • Unit 4, Lesson 21: What Is the Role of Congress in American Constitutional Democracy?
  • Unit 4, Lesson 23:  What is the role of the President in the American constitutional system?
  • Unit 6, Lesson 37:  What key challenges does the United States face in the future?
  • Unit 6, Lesson 38: What Are the Challenges of the Participation of the United States in World Affairs?