Opposition party slams overtures to North Korea for 'Pyongyang Olympics'

By Yonhap News Agency  |  Jan. 25, 2018 at 12:42 PM
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SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The main opposition Liberty Korea Party stepped up accusations Thursday that the administration of President Moon Jae-in is allowing North Korea to steal the show at the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics by putting too much emphasis on the North's participation.

Rep. Kim Sung-tae, the party's floor leader, said people are wondering whether it will be the Pyeongchang Olympics or the "Pyongyang Olympics" as the government has been trying too hard to curry favor with the North to ensure its participation in the games.

"We cannot help but ask once again whether this is the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics or the Pyongyang Olympics of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," Kim said during a party meeting, referring to the North's official name.

Kim said the Olympics should remain purely a sporting event and said it's wrong to put a political frame on it.

The government has come under criticism from conservatives for giving up too much to the North to ensure its participation in the Feb. 9-25 event, such as the decision not to use South Korea's national flag during the opening ceremony and instead march together with the North behind a neutral Korea Peninsula flag.

Also under fire has been the agreement to form a unified women's ice hockey team, which critics say will be disadvantageous to South Korean athletes because they will have fewer chances to play.

Kim effectively rejected Moon's offer to hold a meeting with the floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties to ensure a successful hosting of the Olympics, saying he won't agree to such a meeting unless the government halts what he calls political retaliation against former conservative administrations.

Rep. Hong Moon-pyo, secretary general of the party, also said many people are upset that it looks like the North is controlling the Olympics with a "remote control" from Pyongyang.

Rep. Kim Hack-yong, chairman of the parliamentary defense committee, said the North is trying to use the Olympics as a chance to demonstrate its armed forces' power by holding a military parade on the eve of the Olympics.

"It is a matter of course that the government of the Republic of Korea should file a complaint about this ... But the government remains tight-lipped out of concern that it may anger North Korea," the lawmaker said.

Rep. Choung Tae-ok, the party's spokesman, issued a statement urging the government to scrap all Olympic-related agreements with the North unless the communist nation calls off the planned military parade on the eve of the Olympics.

Striving to counter the opposition party's offensive, the ruling Democratic Party proposed that all parties refrain from political squabbles during the Olympics. They also called for bipartisan cooperation for the successful hosting of the "peace" Olympics.

"For citizens, the opposition parties should [help] ensure that the Pyeongchang Olympics will end up as the peace Olympics and should give an answer to our efforts to improve inter-Korean relations," said Je Youn-kyung, the party's floor spokeswoman.

Choi Moon-soon, governor of Gangwon Province, where Pyeongchang is located, stepped into the fray, calling for a "truce" among South Koreans.

"The North's participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics is something that we should welcome," he told reporters.

"As the decision on its participation has been made, we hope we can host the Olympics with the blessing of the world's people," he added.

He also urged the conservative opposition parties to stop using the "provocative" expression of saying the Pyongyang Olympics when referring to the Pyeongchang Olympics.

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