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A look at this year’s Olympic host country

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Sylvia Cohen, Staff reporter

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Site of the upcoming Winter Olympics and neighbor to one of the world’s most frightening nuclear threats, the nation of South Korea is this month’s featured country.

A quick history of South Korea: The Korean peninsula has been inhabited around 2 million years*. In 1392, with the establishment of the Joseon dynasty, the whole of Korea came together under one ruling body. For over 400 years the kingdom of Korea persisted and developed a unique culture and national identity. This national identity would be challenged, however, by the invasion of the Japanese. By the year 1910, Japan had officially annexed Korea, leading to decades of Korean oppression. Several rebellions and protests occurred in the following years and decades, but none were able to regain Korean independence until World War II.

With the fall of the Axis Powers and the surrender of the Japanese in 1945, Korea was no longer a Japanese territory. The leaders of the Allied Powers (Britain, America and the Soviet Union) agreed that Korea was to become a fully independent nation and appointed a committee to oversee the reconstruction and establishment of a new Korean government. Sadly, the differences among the Allied powers began to reassert  themselves. With Soviet tanks patrolling one side of Korea and American tanks the other, the country was split in two. Soon after, South Korea, with the support of the UN and America, was able to hold free elections and in 1948 was declared a recognized nation by the UN.

In the 70 years since then, South Korea has developed a strong economy and democracy and has established itself as a country on the rise. Now, with that thorough background established, let’s take a look at what LSHS students want to talk about concerning South Korea.

“They are having the Olympics there,” junior Alejandro Torres-Joaquin said. Torres-Joaquin was one of several students to mention the upcoming winter games. From February 9 to February 25, the South Korean city of PyeongChang will be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics. South Korea last hosted the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul; it was at this game that the standing world record for women’s 100 meter dash was set.**

This year South Korea is excited to host its first winter games. The games will include more events than any of its predecessors, 102 to be exact, and will take place in 12 seperate stadiums all within 30 minutes of the main Olympic Stadium. About half of these buildings were built specially for this year’s Olympics.***

Torres-Joaquin went on to ask how many teams will be attending this year’s Olympic. A question which junior Nathan Maize was quick to second.

“I second that,” Maize said.  

What sounds like a very straight to the facts question has actually proven to be difficult to answer. 206 different nations are listed on the Olympic website, but not all of these countries have athletes who have qualified to compete. So far it seems that the official number of teams competing is still up in the air, or at least being kept somewhere that furious internet searching cannot find. Our readers can choose to trust the 2018 Olympics Wikipedia page, which says that 93 teams have qualified, but we cannot make any assurances as the helpful editor of the page neglected to reference their sources.

Junior Rachel Compton furthered the Olympic trend and spoke a little to the international politics at play leading up to the games.

“[South Korea] doesn’t like North Korea and they had a meeting with North Korean people so that they could be in the Olympics,” Compton said.

The relationship between North and South Korea is as complex as is to be expected when a country is forcefully split in two. There has been considerable conflict between the two countries, the most notable of course being the Korean War which began in 1950 when North Korean military forces crossed the border into South Korea. This bloody conflict lasted three years and left the two countries with a less than stable relationship. More recently, in the past decade or so, there have been some small but frightening confrontations between military forces of the two nations. Despite this history of hostility, a significant portion of South Koreans are in favor of a reunification of the two Koreas. This is not a short-term goal and often seems impossible, but several policy decisions have been made that reflect a pro-unification mindset. In several Olympic games, both North and South Korea have chosen to march under a joint flag embossed with the outline of the Korean peninsula, and between 1998 and 2008 South Korean presidents instituted a “Sunshine Policy” in which they dealt more leniently with North Korea in the hopes of eventual reunification (This strategy was based off of similar policy employed in Germany which eventually led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of East and West Germany). However, with the ascension of Kim Jong-un and the increase in nuclear activity in North Korea, the relationship between the two nations has deteriorated somewhat from the Sunshine-Policy days.

Several meetings have taken place this January between the two countries concerning North Korea’s participation in the Olympics. This was the first series of face-to-face meetings between the two countries in two years.** The meeting seem to have been fruitful as plans have been released for several cooperative measures between the two countries during the upcoming Olympics. North Korean athletes will march with the South Korean athletes under the Korean Peninsula flag and will field a cheer team to cheer for both nations. These plans do still have to be approved by a larger the International Olympics Committee.

Senior Madison Woll demonstrated an impressive breadth of Korean knowledge. “They have the fastest internet speeds in the world [and] their president’s name is Moon!” Woll said.

According to CNN, South Korea’s internet speeds are nearly four times as fast as the US’s and this added speed is offered at a much lower average price as well.  The US ranked 16th in internet speed in a 2016 survey by internet company Akamai. The main reason for South Korea’s superior internet is its population density. They average 524 people per square kilometer compared to US with 35 people per square kilometer****. The majority of South Koreans live in urban areas where it is much easier and cheaper to provide high speed internet access.

A man named Moon does indeed occupy the presidential Blue House of South Korea. Their president’s full name is Moon Jae-in. Moon was elected May 9, 2017 following the impeachment of the former president Park Geun-hye due to corruption. The new president is said to have liberal leanings and to be in favor of increased cooperation between North and South Korea.

South Korea is a country moving at an incredible speed, both in terms of their ability to search for cat photos online and their impressive accomplishments as such a young nation.

 

*New World Encyclopedia

**CNN

***People

****Worldometer.info

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