NORTH KOREA: In light of the resurge in COVID-19 cases, North Korea has announced it will not take part in the Tokyo Olympics this year to protect its athletes from the fatal virus.
On the other hand, the decision diminishes South Korea’s hopes of using the Olympics to engage with North Korea amid stalled cross-border talks. Both countries had entered a joint team in 2018 at the Winter Olympics that had led to a series of historic summits.
Pyongyang, the Capital of North Korea says it has no cases of COVID-19, but experts refuse to believe such claims. The North is the first major country to skip this year’s Games because of the pandemic. A report by the state-run site Sports in the DPRK said that the decision was made at an Olympics meeting committee held on 25 March this year.
Since the virus broke out last year, North Korea has taken stringent measures to curb the virus. It quarantined hundreds of foreigners in Pyongyang and shut off its borders late in January. Since early last year, with most international passenger flights stopped, trains and wagons have also been forbidden to enter or leave the country.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in saw the Games as a catalyst for progress between both nations, as that had been the case in 2018 when North Korea sent 22 athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, along with a 230-member cheering group, government officials and journalists, thus building hopes of diplomatic relations. Among the contingent in 2018, was North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong – a move which also aided efforts to initiate diplomacy with South Korea and the US. Post the Olympics, what followed were a series of historic, high-profile meetings between the North Korean leader and former US President Donald Trump. After the meetings, there were hopes for amicable relations, but nothing materialized and the atmosphere has since deteriorated.
Ever since the Korean War ended in 1953, there has been no peace treaty, which means that North and South Korea are still at war.