Simmering Korean Tensions: Are Winter Olympics Worth The Trip?

© Sputnik / Ramil Sitdikov / Go to the photo bankOlympic Park in Pyeongchang
Olympic Park in Pyeongchang - Sputnik International
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The opening of the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea is due in just five months but more than three-fourths of the tickets remain unsold. The rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula indicate a disjoint between the war games on one hand and the Olympic Games on the other. Korean expert Nicolas Levi sheds some light on the situation.

According to the International Olympic Committee, just 22.7% of total tickets for the Games in Pyeongchang have been sold and South Korea blames a number of its neighbors for this situation. 

The number of tickets purchased is the lowest in the history of the Winter Olympic Games. In addition to high prices and strained relations with China, the South Korean organizers  blame China and Japan for  insufficient advertising, and then there is the rising tension with North Korea, which is also playing a role in the low interest towards the winter games.

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According to  Levi from the Polish Academy of Sciences, it will be extremely difficult for South Korea to ensure safety during the Games.

The South Korean authorities have decided to place missiles in one of the areas where the Olympic Games are to be held in the Gangwon Province to prevent any provocations by North Korea.

“Kim Jong Un seeks, in particular, to destabilize the situation in South Korea, preventing it from successfully carrying out its mission of organizing the Winter Olympic Games, which are to be held in South Korea in 5-6 months,” Levi said.

He further said that people who are aware of the North Korean threat and those who have Internet access can see that majority of the countries on their foreign ministry websites strongly discourage civilians from traveling to the Korean Peninsula due to the current political climate.

Looking at whether it is possible that the current dynamic in the region could be because North Korea feels threatened by the US, the expert said that, “I believe that Kim Jong Un is afraid of the US administration and seeks to make sure that his nuclear technologies can repel US military intervention.”

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He further said that it is highly probable that Kim Jong Un does not exclude the possibility of war on the Korean peninsula, and for this reason, ballistic missile tests have been carried out repeatedly in recent months.

The North Korean leader also clearly understands that international sanctions against the country can be dangerous. 

“If access to oil is totally cut off, and stocks are left for just 5-6 months, this can lead to protests inside the country. This does not mean that the North Korean regime will lose face, but it will cause conflict on the peninsula. One can imagine a scenario when North Korea will attack the South with the aim of capturing oil reserves, etc. It is quite possible. Kim Jong Un is an unpredictable leader, it is unknown what he is capable of,” the expert said

In general, as emphasized by Pascal Boniface, director of the French Institute for International and Strategic Studies, Kim Jong Un does not want to follow the fate of Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein. 

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