When North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in his New Year's speech, many North Korea watchers wondered what might have motivated the young leader to make the move that echoed his father’s basketball diplomacy more than 20 years ago, VOA reports.
Regardless of Kim's motivation behind the diplomatic initiative, Kim appears to have succeeded in creating a rare feeling of rapprochement between two Koreas that technically remain at war. For the first time, the two Koreas fielded a combined team---women’s ice hockey. The two sides quickly learned to use the Olympics to achieve "a show of unity across the divided Korean Peninsula," the New York Times reported.
The North's decision to participate in the Olympics came amid increasing international sanctions, which called for Seoul to engage in a flurry of diplomatic maneuvers to seek a temporary lifting of sanctions against Pyongyang, raising concern in Washington that Seoul was playing into the North's ploy to use the Olympics to ease sanctions.
"What this means is it’s so both incremental and drastic, but South Korea is paving the way, bit-by-bit, in setting precedents and creating new norms," said Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.