Seoul (GPA) – The PyeongChang Olympics have highlighted how effective international diplomacy can be sans the United States.
From the moment the opening ceremonies of the PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea began, the United Korean Olympic Team showed the world what real substantive diplomacy between two nations without US interference can accomplish.
To quickly recap: This team was the creation of a surprise New Years announcement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) leader Kim Jong Un, saying he would be open to dialogue on participating in the games. While it was too late for the DPRK to enter their own team in the games based on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines, the two Koreas did agree on allowing some athletes from the DPRK to join with their fellow Koreans in a joint team.
There were some initial roadblocks during these talks, and even after agreeing on the joint team the DPRK dropped out of a pre-games event with South Korean athletes. This temporary change of Pyongyang’s tone was triggered by some of the more conservative and hawkish South Korean media.
While western media attempted to paint this chain of events as further proof of the irrationality of the DPRK, there were obvious reasons for Pyongyang’s anger. South Korean media had taken to slamming President Moon Jae In’s decision to negotiate with the DPRK and provoked the more conservative elements of South Korea by implying weakness on the part of Moon. The media also took to outright mocking the games by highlighting anti-peace opinions and using the term “Pyongyang Games” to attempt to paint Moon in a negative light.
Despite the show of unity by the joint Korean team at the opening ceremony for the games yesterday, the conservative and pro-US elements in South Korea were still hard at work trying to sabotage any goodwill. One clear example of this came shortly after the opening ceremonies when South Korean protesters, flying US flags and burning images of Kim Jong Un, clashed with police.
This tradition of distrust among certain segments of the South Korean population comes from their long tradition of conservative leadership and that sector of society’s dependence on US imperial projection. These elements have always sought to turn South Koreans against their family in the North and are angered that their plans have continued to unravel since their president Park Geun-hye was thrown in jail for corruption.
If this wasn’t enough, the US also decided to snub these amazing developments between Seoul and Pyongyang.
Vice-President Mike Pence, who is representing the US in Pyeongchang didn’t stand for the joint Korean team’s entrance during the opening ceremonies of the games (and every other nation besides the US). Pence was seated with Japanese Prime-Minister Shinzo Abe who was also cold toward both Korean delegations sitting across the aisle from them.
Yet none of this stopped relations between the DRPK and the Republic of Korea (ROK) from continuing to grow in PyeongChang. Mike Pence and Shinzo Abe may have refused to speak with the delegations from either Korea in their seats, but it was noted that Moon spoke to the DPRK representatives which includes Kim Yo-jong, the sister of Kim Jong Un. Kim Yo-jong was not just seen speaking to Moon but was also shown to have had lunch with him at Seoul’s presidential palace where she is said to have invited him to Pyongyang at the “earliest date possible.”
Images of this meeting also appeared in the DPRK’s media which is an extremely rare occurrence. On top of that the images, which appeared in Rodong Sinmun, also referenced Moon as the President of the ROK, as opposed to their usual descriptions which included titles like “chief executive” or something similarly vague.
President Moon ran on a promise of renewed dialogue with the DPRK and so far it seems he is willing to deliver on that promise wherever he sees an opportunity to. The Trump Regime and reactionary elements of South Korean society will likely to continue to try to undermine these steps forward but it shouldn’t stop Moon from doing everything in his power to bring real peace to the Peninsula without the US. Much like in Syria, we are seeing another example of how global diplomacy works best without the United States.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.