On Sunday, North Korean singer Hyon Song Wol crossed into South Korea with six other members of her advance team, which will spend two days planning cultural performances at the Winter Olympics by the North’s singers, dancers, and pop musicians.
Hyon, known as the “girl on a steed” after her most famous song, passed through the Demilitarized Zone in a bus. She was greeted in Seoul by what The New York Times called “a media frenzy.”
In addition to Hyon’s 140-strong art troupe, North Korea will send a cheering squad of 230 members and hundreds of others, including a taekwondo demonstration team and officials.
Hyon’s visit is part of a geopolitical gambit of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to join together the two rival Korean states. At the Pyeongchang Games, to be held east of Seoul beginning Feb. 9, the South and North Korean teams will march in the Opening Ceremony together under one flag, showing a united Korean nation. The two rival states will field a single women’s ice hockey team, the first time they have done so.
Moon hopes that Pyongyang’s participation will lead to an incident-free Olympics and Paralympics, which end Mar. 18, as well as create the conditions for general peace and reconciliation on the troubled peninsula.
In pursuing his vision, Moon has, of course, angered conservative—and generally older—South Koreans. He can afford to do that. After all, he easily beat their candidate in the by-election last May 9. Yet he is also alienating a substantial portion of his own “progressive” political base, especially younger voters.
South Koreans of all political stripes are upset that women are being turfed off their ice hockey team to make room for North Koreans. Not only are the athletes “furious” and Korea Ice Hockey Association officials “utterly speechless,” more than 70 percent of the South Korean population is opposed to the joint team. That’s the case even though more than 80 percent said they supported North Korea’s participation in the Games.