Olympic Peace Between North And South Korea Derailed By A Flag

REUTERS/Mike Segar

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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North and South Korea will not march together at the Winter Paralympics because they can’t agree on the flag.

The two Koreas had initially planned to march together at the opening ceremony as they did at the Winter Olympics in February, but a flag dispute derailed their plans, highlighting the fragility of the peace of the peninsula.

The unified Korean banner that features a blue map of the Korean Peninsula on a white background. During the Games last month, Japan complained after discovering the picture of Korea included the Dokdo/Takeshima Islands, territories claimed by both Korea and Japan in the East Sea/Sea of Japan. The two Koreas apparently could not agree on a flag that would not stoke tensions, Reuters reports.

The South wanted a flag without the islands, but the North Korean delegation argued Thursday that it “does not accept the fact that Dokdo cannot be marked due to political issues held in Korea,” leading the International Paralympics Committee to decide that the two Koreas will march in individually.

“We wanted to have a moment of harmony for a peaceful Paralympics and Korean unity, but decided to respect each other’s stance on the issue,” the South’s Korean Paralympic Committee said in a statement, according to Yonhap News Agency. “We hope both sides can continue to cooperate and contribute to having a successful Paralympic Games.”

The Games will kick off Friday.

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After two years of silence and a marked increase in tensions, North Korea suddenly decided at the start of the year to respond to the liberal government in Seoul, proposing bilateral talks.

Since the first meeting in early January, North and South Korea have held several landmark meetings. Not only did South Korean president Moon Jae-in meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong in South Korea, but South Korean diplomats dined with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang.

Several dormant diplomatic and military hotlines have been reopened, and an inter-Korean summit is expected to be held in April.

Nonetheless, the division between the two Koreas runs deep, and longstanding tensions are difficult to forget. Various issues have complicated the temporary peace, and many Korea watchers remain suspicious of North Korea’s intentions.

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