North and South Korea shocked the world when they announced they had negotiated to compete together under one Korean flag in this year’s winter Olympics. The temporary unification has signaled mixed reactions from many of the South Korean people. Korean students at Bethel College also had mixed reactions about the agreement between the two opposing powers.
The Olympic games has already started to have side effects,” freshman engineering major, Juwhan Paeng said, “The U.S. government is arguing and complaining about it. They’re putting international business pressure on Korea right now.”The United States plans to place a 53 percent tariff on steel-producing companies in a dozen countries such as China and more recently, South Korea. Paeng says the increase could be a result of the partnership with North Korea for the Olympic games. According to the International Trade Administration’s website trade.gov, Canada is the largest U.S. steel import at 16 percent, while South Korea is the third largest at 10 percent. “There’s really no reason why that should be the case,” Paeng said, “Canada is exporting more steel to the United States than South Korea and they are not going to be taxed.” Initially, Paeng supported the idea of the Koreas unifying for the Olympics. “We’ve never seen a unified Korea like this,” Paeng said. “Many people have said both good and bad things about it, but I think it’s a big deal in history. It’s a symbol that Korea is reunited.” Paeng is in favor of the invitation North Korean President Kim Jong-un has extended to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to come to North Korea and discuss the countries’ relationship. Another Korean student who attends Bethel College, but asked to remain anonymous, spoke positively about the temporary Olympic unification. “I think it’s good,” they said. “South Koreans already think of North Korea as a part of one Korea. It makes me happy to see them working together on something at least.” Ultimately, the student hopes North and South Korea can peacefully reunite the countries again. They think the Olympics is a good first step to resolving the conflict. Both students said the conflict does not affect them directly -- at least not anymore. “One year when I was in middle school, I lived in a dorm that was in firing range of North Korean artillery,” the anonymous student said. “It was scary then, but now since I’m in the U.S. and considering how common North Korea’s threats are, I’m not as affected now.” “Many people know of South Korea as this country with its people worried about the threats from North Korea,” Paeng said. “Actually, South Korea is a very rich country and many of the people are living well off. I think many South Koreans are too safe and they should feel some danger, but they don’t recognize that they are close to war.” (Photo Credit: International Olympic Committee)