North and South Korea agreed to put past tensions aside and promote a “Peace Olympics” — but some South Koreans slammed the decision to make temporary amends with the Hermit Kingdom, accusing Seoul of embracing Kim Jong Un’s propaganda efforts amid the nuclear and missile crisis.
Though South Korean President Moon Jae-in touted the recent Olympic breakthrough as a “historic event," his push to include North Korea has received sharp criticism.
“North Korea was all about firing missiles last year, but suddenly they want to come to the South for the Olympics? Who gets to decide that?” Kim Joo-hee, a 24-year-old translator, told Reuters in Seoul. “Does North Korea have so much privilege to do whatever they want?”
Other South Koreans took to social media shortly after the North and South announced the joint opening ceremony march, writing that the unification flag — a blue silhouette of the peninsula placed on a white background — was “not [their] g-------- flag.”
“Yeah. Like me. That is NOT my g-------- flag. I did NOT salute that rag while I was in the ROK Army. It is not the flag that draped over the coffins of those 46 sailors of the ROKS Cheonan that those b-------- murdered,” John Lee tweeted.
He added: “I repeat. That is NOT my g-------- flag.”
“The Pyeongchang Olympics have already become the Pyongyang Olympics,” another person wrote.
Other South Koreans told The Associated Press their government’s efforts to use “sports diplomacy” was a waste of time and an “outdated approach.”
"We are always repeating meaningless things and North Korea isn't a country that will change easily," Kim Hye-jin, 39, said.
"Why are we doing this?" said Heo Doo-won, a 40-year-old teacher. "We are clearly two different countries and it's better if things stay that way. I don't want a unified team or a unification flag. Why can't we just let the North Koreans march under their own flag?"
Others said the Olympics have become free propaganda for North Korea to promote places such as the Masikryong ski resort, which Kim has been pushing to make a go-to tourist destination.
“I repeat. That is NOT my g-------- flag.”
“The idea of joint training could be used as a propaganda tool to rationalize how far-sighted Kim Jong Un was in making what was actually an anachronistic decision to build the ski resort at a time when ordinary citizens are starving to death," Kim Sung-han, a former South Korean vice foreign minister, told Reuters on Sunday.
In a series of meetings conducted since the start of the New Year, North Korea agreed to send a delegation — including a 140-member art troupe, 230-member cheerleading squad, 22 athletes, reporters and officials — to the Olympics that will march with the South Korean team under the unification flag at the opening ceremony.
South Korea will be the first host country to not wave its own flag at the opening ceremony.
Moon urged the public to support the Feb.9-25 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, saying the current thaw in tensions could dissipate in a second.
“The current condition is so fragile that no one can be optimistic about how long the dialogue will last," Moon said, according to Yonhap.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.