Korea: An Olympic Truce: Time for Concerted Non-governmental Efforts

Rene Wadlow

The holding of the Winter Olympics in  South Korea from 9 to 25 February followed by the Paralympics 9 to 18 March may be an an opportunity to undertake negotiations in good faith to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to establish, or re-establish, forms of cooperation between the two Korean governments.

Such negotiations in good faith would be in the spirit of what is known as the "Olympics Truce".  Truce in classic Greek meant a "laying down of arms". A truce was usually announced before and during the Olympic Games to ensure that the host city was not attacked and athletes and spectators could travel safely to the Games and return to their homes.

In 1924, Winter Olympics  were added to the Summer Olympics which had been revived earlier in an effort to re-establish the spirit of the Classic Greek games.  At the 2000 Sydney games at the opening ceremony, South and North Korean delegations walked for the first time together under the same flag.  Today, with greater tensions, there needs to be more than symbolic gestures. There needs to be real government-led negotiations to reduce tensions.  In addition to the two Korean States, the USA, China, Russia, and Japan are "actors" in the Korean "drama"

As the representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) we have very limited influence on the decision-making process concerning Korea of the six governments most directly involved.  The Association of World Citizens, as other NGOs, has made appeals for positive action to these governments as well as to the  Secretary-General of the United Nations.  Many of the positive suggestions have concerned what is often called a "freeze for freeze" agreement: a suspension of the yearly US-South Korean war exercise and a progressive reduction of US troops stationed in South Korea and elsewhere in Asia, especially Japan in exchange for a ban on North Korean nuclear and missile testing and negotiations to replace the 1953 Armistice with a Peace Treaty. The Association of World Citizens has also made proposals  for economic cooperation, more numerous meetings among separated family members and cultural exchanges. However, as the saying goes "Do not hold your breath waiting".For the moment, we look in vain for enlightened governmental leadership.  The appeals for calm by the Chinese authorities have not been followed  by specific proposals for actions to decrease tensions.    

Rene Wadlow

Today,  there is a need for a coming together of non-governmental organizations  who are primarily focused on the resolution of armed conflicts with those groups concerned with the abolition of nuclear weapons.  The current Korean tensions are based on the development of nuclear weapons and missile systems and the pressures and threats to prevent their development. The Olympic Truce period should be taken as an opportunity to advance "Track II" efforts - informal discussions - on the part of NGOs to see  on what topics fruitful governmental negotiations could be set out.

About the author



Leave a comment: