Seoul must not bring territorial issue into Olympics

opinion February 09, 2018 01:00

By The Yomiuri Shimbun
Asia News Network
Tokyo

The joint North-South Korean women’s ice hockey team played a warm-up match before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.



During the match, a unified Korean flag was hoisted at the venue that depicted the Korean Peninsula and the Takeshima islands of Shimane Prefecture, which South Korea has illegally occupied.

South Korea’s self-righteous assertion of its dominion was obviously intended in this flag.

The Takeshima islands are called Dokdo in South Korea. With a total area of 0.2 square kilometres, the islets are only slightly larger than Hibiya Park in central Tokyo. Reduced in size, it would be natural for the islets not to appear on a flag.

The Organising Committee for the 2018 Winter Games clarified that it will use a flag with no depiction of the Takeshima islands when North and South Korean athletes march jointly at the opening ceremony of the Games, asserting that there would be absolutely no room for bilateral friction with Japan to develop.

The flag used this time was said to have been prepared by the Korea Ice Hockey Association. It is incompatible with the explanation given by the organising committee, and cannot be overlooked. 

Does South Korea plan to use different flags on various occasions related to the Games? It is only natural that the Japanese government has lodged a protest against the South Korean government.

On its home page, the committee has actually introduced the Takeshima islands in South Korea’s tourist information section, publicising the islets with the expression of “Dokdo”. This cannot be accepted, either.

It is incomprehensible that South Korea has not learned a lesson from its past mistake.

At the 2012 London Summer Olympics, the Japanese and the South Korean teams competed in the third-place match in men’s soccer. A South Korean soccer player, excited about his team’s victory over Japan in the game, held up a sign reading “Dokdo is our territory”.

Fifa, soccer’s governing body, considered the player’s action as “behaviour that goes against the concept of sportsmanship and fair play”, and decided to suspend him for two World Cup qualifying matches and imposed a fine.

Officials of the Olympic Games in South Korea must recognise the grave responsibility of being a host country of the Games.

The government under South Korean President Moon Jae-in – an administration conciliatory to North Korea – has met with strong backlash from young people over the formation of a joint North-South Korean team, disregarding the intentions of South Korean athletes. There is also strong dissatisfaction among conservatives about the country becoming unable to hoist the South Korean national flag when their athletes march together with North Korean athletes during the opening ceremony.

The territorial issue is the subject that will most incite anti-Japan sentiment among the South Korean people. By appealing to racial consciousness, the issue can also be easily used for cooperation with North Korea.

Concern cannot be dispelled that the Moon administration may emphasise its confrontational stance toward Japan, so as to avert public criticism. 

In October last year, Moon’s administration announced that it will create, within the marine corps, a unit that will be in charge of defending its islands, including the Takeshima isles.

By winning South Korea over to its side, North Korea is also trying to sever South Korea from Japan and the United States. Should discord escalate between Japan and South Korea, that would just play right into the hands of North Korea.