New Delhi: North and South Korea, who are bitter cross-border enemies, on Wednesday agreed that both the countries would march under a single flag during the opening ceremony of the upcoming Winter Olympics.Also Read - Viral Video: Man Asks Barber to Give Him a Kim Jong-un Haircut and the Result Left him Laughing Hard | WATCH
The development comes amid talks aimed at reducing tensions between the two nations still technically engaged in internecine war. Also Read - North Korea Test-fires New Long-range Cruise Missiles With Possible Nuclear Capability: Report
The two Koreas are also set to field a joint women’s ice hockey team to participate in the Games, which are to take place from February 9-25 in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang, located just a relatively-small distance away from the demilitarised zone that has separated the countries since 1953, when hostilities between them ended albeit without a peace accord. Also Read - South Korea's Childbirth Rate Hits Lowest Since 1981; Reveals Statistical Office Data
It was at the DMZ’s Joint Security Area in Panmunjom that delegations from both Koreas, holding the first high-level talks in over two years, struck the deal, signalling an implicit detente in the diplomatic tensions that had seen a dramatic uptick in the past few years amid the North’s ongoing ballistic missile testing programme.
Korean athletes from both states had already marched under the same “unification” flag — a light-blue silhouette of the peninsula on a white background — during the opening ceremonies for the Sidney 2000 and Athens 2004 Summer Olympics.
The decision to form a joint team in the women’s ice hockey category, however, was met with considerable controversy in South Korea, as some fans believe it could hurt the country’s prospects of earning a medal.
This would mark the third time the two nations compete under the same banner at a sporting event, following the 1991 ping pong world championship and the Under-20 soccer world cup held that same year.
While many welcomed the progress in the rapprochement between two countries that are technically still engaged in a fratricidal conflict frozen in time by a 65-year-old armistice, others cautioned against mistaking Pyongyang’s diplomatic overtures for a radical shift in its belligerent foreign policy.
For instance, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono warned that the world should avoid being blinded by what he described as a North Korean “charm offensive”. (With IANS inputs)