Since early January, after Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Day Speech, North and South Korean leaders were discussing, bringing North Koreans to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, in a historical event, where they would even march together in the opening ceremony.
The dialogue didn’t stop there. A joint cultural pre-Olympics performance and festival was also scheduled for February 4; a North Korean pop orchestra with dancers would be playing at South Korea and South Koreans would be training in a North Korea ski resort.
The two countries also agreed to form a combined female hockey team to play together, which was especially met with a lot of criticism from South Korea’s side, as they claimed it was unfair to their players, resulting in hundreds of petitions against the decision on the presidential website. The collaborations with their neighbors were so badly received by the South population that the South Korean President Moon-Jae In approval rating dropped to below 60% for the first time since he took his position in May last year.
Besides the hassle, everything was almost ready for their collaborative performance, except that North Korea suddenly decided to cancel their participation, blaming the South media to be “insulting” public sentiment against the North. South Koreans found out last week that the North was preparing a Military Parade in the eve of South’s Olympics, and the media apparently didn’t cover this event with intentions as good as Kim Jong-Un’s wished.
Seoul stressed that Pyongyang should uphold their agreements and considered North Korea’s decision to withdraw from the joint performance, which would be held at the North Korean territory of Mount Kumgang, “very regrettable”.
The sudden withdrawal won’t initially be extended to the other events agreed between the two Koreas, but it certainly frustrates the expectations, raised since the early January announcements, that they would finally be improving their ties after so many years of tension.