South Korea pays for North Korea’s Olympics experience

Members of North Korea's Taekwondo demonstration team arrive at the Inter-Korean Transit Office near the Demilitarized zone in Paju, South Korea, to return to North Korea Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

When seeing that unified Korean banner in PyeongChang for the Winter Olympics, a false sense of hope washed over the world that perhaps the two separate nations are striving for good collaboration with one another. But then, just as a parent grows skeptical of their teenage son or daughter’s sudden burst of affection on a weekend night, the thought of “What’s the catch?” enters your suspicions. Well, for the Winter Olympics 2018, turns out South Korea is paying most of the expenses for its northern counterpart. This includes covering the costs for 500 cheerleaders, musicians, tae kwon do performers and journalists which the country has hired in order to build themselves up in meaningless grandeur. Not to mention the living arrangements for such supporters, which South Korea has agreed to cover as well, thus estimating a tab of up to $2.6 million.

This isn’t a large amount that could cause South Korea trouble, but the fact that North Korea hasn’t paid a single dime for any of it causes an unsettling feeling. Many of us know that North Korea isn’t in good relations with the international community, as Cho Myoung-gyon, South Korea’s unification minister pointed out in an article of the Washington Post. Almost everyone wants peace. It’s not just South Korea that aims for the possibility of future relations with the northern country; the Olympics itself has arranged to pay for the North Korean athletes’ lodgings and residency for Kim Jong Un’s younger sister. And these lodgings are pretty lavish.

“This could further pave the way for inter-Korean talks to build and sustain peace in the peninsula,” the South Korean Minister said, insisting that this in no way intercepts the international sanctions which involves prohibiting lending money and fuel to North Korea. The minister firmly believes paying the $2.6 million tab will build stepping stones to potential friendship with Kim Jong Un. Now, don’t get me wrong; I find it amazing that North and South Korea have banded together and is participating under the same flag in the Olympics. I also find the matter of South Korea taking these sorts of actions for peace as a sense of maturity. The concern lies with North Korea not paying any of it.

Robert Kelly, a professor of international relations at Pusan National University in South Korea, describes North Korea’s attitude on the South’s generosity; “The North constantly couples its diplomacy with demands for aid, especially cash, as though the international community has to pay for the privilege of engaging.” She claims this is the way of the North Korean elite - to display some sort of alpha-male character upon the South and the olympics as a whole. In reality however, it makes them look like a beggar nation. Display some of that economic might by paying for your own cheerleaders, and maybe, North Korea, you could actually show off some of that muscle.

The Trump administration is no doubt peeved by this situation, as are the South Korean taxpayers who were wary of this joined Korean march in the first place. It makes Trump’s “Maximum Pressure” approach to North Korea seem like a ripped up check. The South Korean citizens have a right to be upset that their tax money is being used for the luxury of their tyrannical neighbor, who have always been threatening the international community with their nuclear weapons.

If you give a mouse a cookie, the mouse will ask for some milk. If you pay for North Korea’s cheerleaders, they might want you to pay their taxes as well. Without a doubt, the North is not moved by this generosity of the South, and who knows what else North Korea will have them do as they hang the false hope of peace by a string over all of our heads.


Joseph Frare is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joseph.frare@uconn.edu