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Art troupe should not be a priority for inter-Korean talks

Art troupe should not be a priority for inter-Korean talks

Posted January. 16, 2018 07:30,   

Updated January. 16, 2018 09:13


South and North Korea held the first working-level discussion on the North’s plan to send an art troupe to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Monday. The talk was the first meeting between the two Koreas to work out details about Pyongyang’s participation in the Olympics, and served as a good gauge of the North’s real intention behind its peace overture. Yet, North Korea seemed to be lacking in sincerity as it attempted to use a sports event to disseminate its propaganda, arguing that the South should not interfere with the contents of its art troupe’s performance.

Pyongyang’s art troupe may include its famous Moranbong Band, led by Hyun Song Wol, who attended the talk Monday as one of the North Korean delegates. In 2015, the North’s highly popular propaganda girl band, comprised of all formally military officers, abruptly cancelled a Beijing tour and headed home, reportedly due to China’s making an issue of the band’s propaganda. The band held a performance to celebrate the test of an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 in July last year.

If North Korea has the slightest sense of shame as a civilized country, it cannot brazenly insist on holding performances for its propaganda in South Korea, which has borne the brunt of the North’s nuclear ambitions. Certainly, South Korea or the Western world would not be affected by Pyongyang’s propaganda performances in the least. But this is about the minimum courtesy that should be kept between and among countries, and the peaceful spirit of the Olympics.

In fact, the participation of athletes should have been discussed first as a priority, not an art troupe. Though the main agenda of the inter-Korean talks is Pyongyang’s taking part in the Olympics, the North did not respond to the South’s proposal to hold the Olympics-related working-level talks on Monday while demanding that an art troupe be discussed first, and it was in the afternoon of Monday that the North finally suggested to hold the South-proposed talk on Wednesday. We are only 24 days away from the opening of the Olympics, but the two Koreas have not had a chance to discuss the scale of the North’s delegation as well as its route to the South and accommodation. Pyongyang should remember that the two Koreas have too many challenges and time is too short for it to repeat its old strategy to use the Olympics as a stage for promoting propaganda. If it does not behave in a cooperative manner in the following talks, it would prove that Kim Jong Un’s olive branch was nothing more than a wedge between countries in the international community.

Also, the South Korean government should not be distracted by its wish to hold a peaceful Olympics with the full participation of the North and make a mistake to leave a blot on the Winter Olympics, which it hosts for the first time. In this vein, Seoul’s proposal to field a joint women’s ice hockey team with Pyongyang should be reconsidered. Having athletes from both sides march together at the opening and closing ceremony is realistic and reasonable enough, but it is way too late to form a joint team. Given that our athletes have shed much sweat for the upcoming Olympics, the government should have taken more time to discuss thoroughly and reach a social consensus. Now is not the time that Seoul can afford to cause another unnecessary controversy or be swayed by Pyongyang.