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Signs of reunification positive for North, South Korea after Olympics

Oct. 5, 2000



During the fanfare of the ceremonies opening the Sydney Summer Games, the athletes from North and South Korea --two nations still technically at war -- marched into the Olympic Stadium together under one blue-on-white flag depicting the Korean peninsula.

'People in the stadium were going crazy. Watching that was like receiving approval internationally,' Eunhi Kim, a Bedford junior, said. 'I was really proud.'

Kim is the president of Baylor's Korean Student Association this year.

The joint march was the latest action in the movement toward reconciliation between North and South Korea.

'Basically, all Koreans know there is one Korea. There is no question over that,' said Dr. Christopher Marsh, assistant professor of political science. 'The question is, after reunification, who is going to be in charge?'

North and South Korea were divided along the 38th parallel in 1953 and have formally remained at war ever since.

Talks of peace and negotiation began in May between South Korean president Kim Dae Jung and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il. In a historic summit in June, the leaders signed a declaration to 'build up trust between each other' through cooperation in 'society, culture, sports, health and environment.'

Reunification efforts are not only significant to the citizens of Korea, but to Asia and the world.

'If it does unite, it means more peace and prosperity,' Marsh said. 'Peace for greater East Asia, but prosperity for North Korea.'

In August, 200 Koreans separated from their families by the 1953 division were reunited. Though they went back to their respective countries after only three days, this event, like the opening ceremonies, symbolized the eagerness of both countries to take steps toward reunification.

'For the older people, it made everyone cry because they've been waiting for this moment for so long,' Sonia Uber, lecturer in Korean, said.

At the Olympics, 180 Koreans marched around the track with hands joined and arms raised. The delegation was led by Park Chong Chul, a judo coach from North Korea, and Chung Un Soon, a basketball player from South Korea.

'I think that the relations among the sportsmen were very good throughout the games,' Uber said. 'People were treating each other like family.'

The countries altogether produced almost 500 athletes and administrators, with the large majority participating from South Korea.

'For the younger ones, they are just happy,' Uber said. 'They don't carry the deep sentiment that their parents do.'

As the countries are still in the fledgling steps toward reunification, concern from the emerging generation has taken seed.

'In a way, our generation should definitely be watching to see what happens because we're the ones that are going to be holding places in government,' Kim said. 'In the long run, we're the ones that are going to be affected.'

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