Beyond entertainment, can the sport be the cure for hatred?

The conflict of more than 65 years between North Korea and its homonym of the South could end in the coming months with the sport as a fundamental approach of union and change

On June 18, the two Koreas announced that they will participate together in some sports of the upcoming Asian Games. Also, Yonhap News Agency reported that both delegations will parade as a single representation in the sports contests that will take place from the month of August in Indonesia, according to El País. This is a decision that arises in the framework of reconciliation between the two brotherly nations in 2018.

Leer en español: Más allá del entretenimiento, ¿puede el deporte ser la cura para el odio?

Sport as a Korean reconciler

The enmity between North Korea and South Korea lasts more than 60 years, from the so-called Korean War that took place in the 50s. Although the war ended in 1953, the differences between the two countries have lasted until today.

However, in an attempt by the North Korean president Kim Jong-un to open the relations of the country with the world, he decided that it was best to start with the neighboring country. For the same reason, on April 27, the North Korean leader arrived at the border of both countries to have a meeting with the president of the South, Moon Jae-in, in what seems to be one of the first peace steps between the nations. "There will be no more war on the Korean peninsula," is one of the points considered in the so-called Declaration of Panmunjom, cited by the newspaper El Tiempo.

However, it must also be said that, in order to achieve the long-awaited peace, the sport has been a fundamental factor between the two Koreas. Just as they intend to do in the Asian Games, North and South Korea had already paraded as a single Great Korea at the opening of the Winter Olympic Games that took place on South Korean soil during the month of February 2018. "As we all witnessed during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, sports gave a chance to initiate better inter-Korean relations," said Jeon Choong Ryul, secretary-general of the Korea Sports and Olympic Committee (KSOC).




This applauded participation was essential for a series of communications and meetings, not only among the Korean nations but also between the government of the North and the president of the United States, Donald Trump. This is because the U.S. President even managed to meet with Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore.

You can also read: "The two leaders gladly accepted the respective invitations", North Korean central news

The first great show of brotherhood

Moreover, the witnessed at the Winter Olympic was not the first example of "sports diplomacy" among the Koreas. This merit is taken by the Ping Pong World Championship in Chiba, Japan, in 1991, with the team formed by the North Korean Ri Pun-Hui and the South Korean Hyun Jung-Hwa, according to an article by El Mundo.

In fact, this same publication evokes the appreciations of Hyun Jung-Hwa when she found out of the surprising sports union of the two nations. "I had been playing with my doubles partner for three years and they suddenly gave us a month to train together. In addition, we were four players (South Korean) and suddenly they told us that two of them had to stay out of the Olympics (to accommodate the North Koreans), "said the South Korean table tennis player.

However, the perception was different when the team of the two Koreas managed to win the Gold against China, positioning this event as one of the most important in the history of sports and Korean society. Such was the impact of this sports competition, that in 2012 the film 'As One' was premiered, which narrates the events that occurred during that union.



South Africa and rugby: another example of "sports diplomacy"

The case of the Koreas is not the first or only case of "sports diplomacy" that occurs in the world. For many is more than significant the work the Nelson Mandela did in South Africa, in order to end the racial struggle of the Apartheid that for decades had scourged South African society. Sport, specifically Rugby, was a key tool for that goal.

"The final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup was a milestone on the road that South Africa traveled towards peace," La Gaceta recounts in one of its publications. In this is recalled the way in which the match between the South African team and the New Zealand team influenced the social renewal of the African country, as the South African triumph brought together two sectors socially distanced by racism and hatred.

"Deep down in that match no one lost. We all win (...) In South Africa, it is less and less important what race you are. The new generations grow together, "said the captain of the South African rugby team champion of 1995, François Pienaar, in an interview with Mundo Deportivo.




Mandela died in 2014, but his image as an "indispensable man" in the reunification of South Africa is still alive among the inhabitants of this nation and the people close to the former president. For this, John Carlin, author of "The Human Factor" book that narrates the incidents of the final of the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and the impact of Nelson Mandela in it, said in an interview with Semana magazine that "the greatness of Mandela is that he got a whole country to change his mind (...) It takes a brilliant person like Mandela, who sees a sport as a political opportunity. I would never have seen it."


Latin American Post | Christopher Ramírez Hernández

Translated from  "Más allá del entretenimiento, ¿el deporte puede ser la cura para el odio?"

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