On Friday, January 26, 2018, the President of the UN General Assembly opened the meeting of the GA with a “solemn appeal” for the observance of the Olympic Truce.
While the event at the UN was only sparsely attended, it carried an importance that should be noted and celebrated.
In his remarks, GA President Miroslav Lajčák appealed to all UN Member States to observe the historic ‘Olympic Truce’ during the period of the Olympic Games.
The GA President referred to the ancient Greek tradition of the ekecheira, or ‘Olympic Truce,’ which began in the Eighth Century B.C., and is a cherished tradition of the Olympic Games. In 1992 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) honored this tradition by calling all nations to observe the Truce.
In a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly on November 13, 2017, the GA called on all UN member states to observe the UN truce individually or collectively, from a period from the 7th day before the start of the Winter Olympic Games until the seventh day following the end of the Paralympic Winter Games which will be held in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.
The truce has a special meaning in the context of this year’s Winter Olympic Games.
The truce that has been called for on the Korean Peninsula will mean that the two Koreas will have some unified inter-Korean activities in this upcoming Olympics. For this Olympics the “first unified inter-Korean women’s hockey team” is already in training. When the North Korean athletes and coaches arrived at the training center in the Republic of Korea (ROK) to meet the athletes and coaches in the South, they were given a warm welcome by the South Korean team. The South Korean women’s ice hockey coach Sarah Murray is the coach of the unified team. Newspaper accounts report that coach Pak Chul-ho who accompanied the players from the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) is working together with Coach Murray helping the players from the North with their training under her.
Such experiences carried out by Koreans from both parts of the peninsula help to demonstrate why the tradition of the Olympic truce is so important.
The truce has provided a reprieve of a period with less tension between the two Koreas. It is a gift to the world from the tradition of the Olympics. Also the pause in hostilities it provided makes it possible for the parties to the conflict to consider alternatives that may make it possible to find a peaceful resolution for the conflict.
An article in the English language edition of the South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reported about a recent Congressional hearing in the US.(1) The former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger proposed that the US support reinstating the six-party talks to seek a means of resolving the conflict with the DPRK. Could this be an example of how alternative perspectives may be explored during the period when the Olympic truce provides for a pause in the hostile rhetoric among the belligerent parties?
UN actions which help to support concrete efforts towards peace provide an example for the role the UN should play in the world.
1. “Henry Kissinger suggests a return to the Six Party Talks”, Hankyoreh, January 28, 2018.