International community’s hopes in Olympics thawing relations with North Korea ill-founded

Alex Tsymbalisty, Perspective Editor

Ah, the Olympics: a time for countries to put their differences aside and engage in some friendly competition. Playing sports is the ultimate way to reduce tensions and bring people of all countries together.

Or is it?

When a country tells its citizens that the west is evil, constantly threatens its neighbors with nuclear war, and uses concentration camps and secret police to enforce a dictatorship, is the solution to reducing tensions to play a good old game of hockey?

Of course not. The international community is only appeasing a country ruled by a mad man in the ridiculous belief that it will lead to decreased tensions. This is hogwash.

South Korea has 123 athletes competing in 15 events; North Korea has 10 athletes competing in four events. There is no way that North Korea will even be able to compete with the south in terms of medal count. This will surely be used as evidence of western treachery in propaganda fueling even more hatred. That’s assuming North Korean officials choose to tell their citizens of their medal count at all.

There’s also the belief that even though North Korean athletes may not win a lot at least they’ll be able to compete and maybe have some fun while they’re there. Again, this is unfortunately not the case.

According to CNN in addition to North Korea sending athletes to the Olympics they have also sent minders to make sure no one escapes or does something to disrespect the Dear Leader. North Korean athletes escaping during international sporting events isn’t unheard of.

In 1997 a women’s ice hockey player defected and in 1999 a judo athlete defected during a competition in Spain. A defection during the Olympics would deal a major blow to the regime and it’s obvious why minders were sent.

In addition to constant surveillance, North Korean athletes are under immense pressure to succeed. According to Choi Hyun Mi, a boxer who defected from North Korea, North Korean athletes undergo public shamings when they don’t perform.

After North Korea failed to even win one game in the 2010 World Cup the team came home to huge public shamings that were attended by hundreds of North Koreans. The head coach for the team was sent to do manual labor before returning to the team.

It’s no wonder then that a North Korean speed skater tried to sabotage a Japanese athlete by grabbing his skates after he himself fell in the beginning of the race. When the pressure to succeed is that high people will do anything to win, or at least prevent others from winning.

This blatant disrespect for both sports and their own athletes clearly shows that North Korea is not ready to join the civilized world in competing in sports, much less in reducing tensions.