North Korea and South Korea march together at Olympics opening ceremony as tensions continue

The two Koreas appeared under one flag for the first time in 12 years

By Rachel Leah

Published February 9, 2018 11:46AM (EST)

 (Getty/Matthias Hangst)
(Getty/Matthias Hangst)

Olympic athletes from North Korea and South Korea marched together during the opening ceremony of the 23rd Winter Games Friday in PyeongChang under a unified flag. According to HuffPost Korea, "spectators were visibly moved," and some viewers shed tears. The last time the two Koreas marched together during the Olympic opening ceremonies was 2006.

Reportedly, only Vice President Mike Pence and Fred Warmbier, the father of American student Otto Warmbier who died following his release from a North Korean prison, did not stand in the VIP box during Korea's joint team entrance, The Washington Post said.

The Korean team's flag pictured the countries' peninsula in blue against a white background, and the athletes wore white parkas with "KOREA" inscribed on the back. In addition to South Korea sponsoring various athletes from the North, the two nations will field a combined women's ice-hockey team.

Beyond symbolics, the games have provided the space for the two Koreas, long in conflict, to at least attempt to rebuild their often difficult dialogue, a priority for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, given North Korea's expanding nuclear war program. The North Korean delegate and sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Kim Yo-jong, shook hands with President Moon. Her visit to PyeongChang is the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 that a member of the Kim dynasty traveled to South Korea. In turn, a South Korean president has not touched North Korean soil in over 10 years.

"Pence reportedly seeks to damp the spirit of reconciliation, recommending that South Korea cut ties with its neighbor after the games end," HuffPost reported. While politically, tensions did not dissipate between the two Koreas with this display of unity and there are serious questions as to whether the whole endeavor is merely a propaganda opportunity for the North, the opening ceremony at least provided a moment in which the peninsula was no longer divided.

Rachel Leah

MORE FROM Rachel Leah