It was a moment that will probably mean little in the long run. It may not even mean much by the time these Olympic games conclude in two weeks. But it clearly meant something to the tens of thousands attending the opening ceremonies Friday as they watched athletes from North and South Korea walk together into the arena under a single Korean flag. The competitors marched behind a blue-and-white “unification flag” that shows the long-divided Korean peninsula as one. As they paraded, a familiar folk song known as “Arirang,” considered an unofficial national anthem, played in the background.
Some 500 North Koreans, including 22 athletes, were in attendance during the opening ceremonies.
But not everyone was applauding this rare display of unity. Among those sitting on their hands was Vice President Mike Pence, whose demeanor reflected the White House’s frosty relations with South Korea over how to deal with the mercurial North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In expressing the administration’s displeasure, Pence went so far as to refuse to be seated for dinner at a pre-ceremony reception hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Instead, Pence chose to eat with the athletes. But he and his wife did greet everyone at the top table — all except Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state.
As we noted, these unifying moments on the Korean Peninsula may not amount to much. But they offer a far more hopeful message than the president’s taunting tweets about who has a bigger nuclear button.
Thumbs up to this kind of unifying moment. In other parts of the world, peace has started with lesser moments than this.