Don't forget the North Korean People

The Olympic Games are supposed to be a time of peace when the world puts aside its rivalries and bitter disputes and instead comes together in a festival of sport. That was the tradition established in Classical Greece which the founder of the modern games, Pierre de Coubertin, hoped would be followed again writes Peter Luff.
While I’m sure the Olympics will be a huge success and that they will bring huge pleasure and excitement to participants and spectators alike, sadly the world will remain a deeply troubled place for their duration.

This was brought home to me on a visit I made last month as a defence minister. I went to South Korea, a country for whose freedom over a thousand British men gave their lives some sixty years ago. The war they fought has never ended – but a sometimes fragile armistice was declared that has endured to the present day. So North Korea remains at war with South Korea, and that war has cost life as recently as 2010 when a South Korean naval vessel was sunk by the North.

While I was in Korea I went to the De-militarised Zone, DMZ, which separates the South from the deeply repressive North. To enter the huts that straddle the boundary between the two countries is something I will always remember. To cross into a country where millions of its people live in fear, and then to leave so easily, is very troubling.

The continued division between one people - the Koreans – and the appalling treatment of the people of North Korea by their leaders are scandals that should outrage the world, but which too often to go forgotten amongst all the world’s other difficulties.

Both countries will be competing at London 2012. The athletes will, I suppose, put their tragic division behind them during the Games, but I will be thinking of what I saw last month and wishing earnestly that Korea will one day participate in the Olympics as single, united and free nation.

Back to Articles