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Change in PyeongChang

The+Olympic+rings+represent+the+five+parts+of+the+worlds+that+come+together+to+participate+in+the+Olympics%3A+the+Americas%2C+Asia%2C+Australia%2C+Europe%2C+and+Africa.+Over+the+rings+are+some+of+the+winter+sports+featured+at+the+games+%28Photo+courtesy+Stux+via+Pixabay.com%29.
The Olympic rings represent the five parts of the worlds that come together to participate in the Olympics: the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa. Over the rings are some of the winter sports featured at the games (Photo courtesy Stux via Pixabay.com).

The Olympic rings represent the five parts of the worlds that come together to participate in the Olympics: the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa. Over the rings are some of the winter sports featured at the games (Photo courtesy Stux via Pixabay.com).

The Olympic rings represent the five parts of the worlds that come together to participate in the Olympics: the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa. Over the rings are some of the winter sports featured at the games (Photo courtesy Stux via Pixabay.com).

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The highly anticipated Olympic Games allow athletes from all over the world to compete in a variety of sports. This year’s 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea will allow athletes to compete in figure skating, curling, bobsledding, and more. Although the focus of the games is sports, their impact is limitless.

“I teach that the Olympics are a way to bring people together. [It is] something called cultural convergence, where we start to realize we’re not as different from people as we once thought,” says social studies teacher Jenna Griner.

The significance of the Olympics extends into world politics. The location of this year’s Olympics is politically significant due to the long-existing tensions between North Korea and South Korea.

“These Olympics will either help to mend the rift or they will become another point of contention for North Korea. This is due to the inherently competitive nature of the Games, as well as Kim Jong Un’s superiority complex. A devastating loss for North Korea could lead to even greater tensions between the two countries. However, if all goes accordingly, it could diffuse a small amount of ill will between the nations,” says sophomore Teigue Winge.

The political dynamic between North Korea and South Korea has been complex since the Korean War. Due to North Korea’s past actions, not all people are optimistic about the potential of the games.

“[The impact is] short-lived. It is really not going to change anything. The Olympics are not going to unify the countries. North Korea is not going to become democratic and South Korea is not going to give up democracy,” says social studies teacher Coach McAnelly.

During the games, North Korea and South Korea agreed to walk under the same flag at the opening ceremony. They also have athletes competing on a joint women’s ice hockey team.

“North Korea and South Korea are going to be under the same flag and they hate each other, so this is a step in the right direction. If they have the same flag, it could connect them as Koreans and not as North or South,” says junior Chad Lowe.

Although the games are only a small part of the complex relationship between the Koreas, they could be the beginning of something monumental.

“The games could begin a slow shift, and eventual diffusion, of the malice between the two countries. The games themselves might not repair the damage, but they could put the countries on the road to recovery,” says Winge.

After canceling a joint cultural event with South Korea, some see North Korea’s efforts as insincere.

“It’s hard to tell with North Korea, but I also don’t know whether sincerity matters. I think that a willingness to sit down, even if secretly they don’t really want to, and start the conversation is valuable,” says Griner.

In contrast, North Korea and Kim Jong-Un’s reputations could benefit immensely from a facade of false cooperation during the games.

“[North Korea’s doing this for] political gain. [They] want the world to perceive them as a regular country and make themselves seem more normal. For Kim Jong-Un, it shows him in a more humane light,” says McAnelly.

Although a small step, the progress made, regardless of intent, can be seen as a sign of hope that one-day tensions between the two East Asian countries can be reduced.

“The U.S. has always been intervening in that part of the world, so if they are able to handle it diplomatically on their own, it is a huge step,” says Lowe.

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