January 15, 2018 13:49
The government proposed last week that South and North Korea march together in the opening and closing ceremonies and form a unified women's ice hockey team. The North and the International Olympic Committee hailed the proposal. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said South Korean athletes will not suffer any disadvantages as long as the existing 23 South Korean ice hockey players get to compete. But it is impossible to boost the 22-woman roster that can actually compete in matches, so the South Korean athletes will lose valuable playing time to accommodate the North Korean lame ducks. This must come as a shock for athletes who have trained so hard for so many years.
The prospect of a unified ice hockey team was raised back in June by President Moon Jae-in. But now there is less than a month left before the Winter Olympics begin in Pyeongchang. In ice hockey, so much depends on switching players in one-minute intervals. The South Korean team has focused on teamwork to overcome weaknesses in physical strength and skills and was aiming to secure its first-ever Olympic win against archrival Japan. But that teamwork will take a huge hit if extra North Korean players are competing.
Among the members of the South Korean women's ice hockey team, one gave up dreams of becoming a pianist while another gave up studying to be a doctor and another gave up her citizenship to acquire South Korean nationality. Because there are no professional or even collegiate women's ice hockey teams in the South, all they get for their pains is a training stipend of just W1.2 million a month, and they had to wait until after 9 p.m. when the ice rink at the Taeneung National Training Center was finally available to them for training, which ended after midnight.
Does the government think it has the right to force these athletes to sacrifice their dreams for a political stunt?
Everyone knows that this is what it is for North Korea. The North will send at most a dozen athletes, of whom only two -- a figure skating pair -- have actually qualified for the Olympics. The rest will be given wild-card-status or be part of a taekwondo demonstration team that has nothing whatever to do with winter sports. But they will be accompanied by 400-500 cheerleaders of one sort or another, including the ghastly Moranbong propaganda girl band, who like to project videos of missile launches on their backdrop. The North is putting on a show just to buy time for its nuclear weapons development. Nobody expected this to happen when Pyeongchang was chosen seven years ago to host the Winter Olympics. South Korea must not allow itself to become a propaganda tool for the North Korean regime.
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