North Korea and the 2018 Olympic Games

Sep 05, 2013
By
Closing ceremonies of the 1988 Olympics

Following a recent suggestion by North Korea’s member of the International Olympic Committee that the two Korea’s could co-host the 2018 Olympic Games, awarded to South Korea’s Pyeongchang, South Korean officials dismissed the idea as unrealistic. The North Korean official claimed that events could be held at the North’s Masik Ski Resort, one of Kim Jong Un’s prestige projects currently under construction. Given the timing of the resort’s construction, the North’s proposal comes as no surprise, and is not without precedent.

North Korea similarly proposed co-hosting the 1988 Seoul Olympics, a scheme not immediately rejected by the South. The Wilson Center’s North Korea International Documentation Project, part of the History and Public Policy Program, has obtained records of the negotiations over co-hosting the 1988 Seoul Olympics from the archives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The negotiations, which lasted from 1985 to 1987, demonstrate how South Korea and the IOC made concessions and offered North Korea a limited but symbolic role in co-hosting the summer games. The proposals offered by Seoul and the IOC would have allowed North Korea to host a number of preliminary elimination contests and two full sporting events, but North Korea demanded that it be given a greater share of events, that the two Koreas form a unified Olympic team, and that the title of the games even be changed to “Korea Pyongyang Seoul Olympic Games.” When South Korea and IOC rejected these counter-proposals and the negotiations came to a halt, North Korea resorted to threats and other acts of intimidation. In the end, North Korea refused even to participate in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, instead hosting an alternative sporting event, the World Festival of Youth and Students, in 1989.

The records of these negotiations, as well as other related documents, including correspondences from Fidel Castro, can be accessed on the History and Public Policy Program’s Digital Archive in the collection “1988 Seoul Olympics”.

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Experts & Staff

  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
  • James Person // Senior Program Associate
  • Charles Kraus // Program Assistant