‘The Pyongyang Olympics’ – Backlash in South Korea over plans to march with North at Winter Olympics 

A landmark decision to unify the Korean Peninsula under a common flag and by fielding a joint ice hockey team at the Winter Olympics in February has sparked a sharp public backlash in the South.

The symbolic gestures, agreed by North and South Korean negotiators earlier this week, during the first diplomatic talks in over two years, were intended to add to hopes of an eventual easing of international tensions over Kim Jong-un’s rapidly advancing nuclear and weapons programmes.

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But the idea of marching under a flag symbolising a unified Korea has been rejected by many South Koreans who resent the perceived attempts by an undeserving North to steal the limelight at the high profile sports event.

Only four out of ten respondents said they backed the flag plan in a survey released on Thursday by the South Korean pollster Realmeter.

The lack of enthusiasm was mirrored on Friday by a plunge in the approval rating of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has vocally championed the idea of the “Peace Olympics” as a potential turning point in relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Posters showing the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic mascot are displayed as a South Korean army soldier stands guard at the Unification Observation post in Goseong, near the border with North KoreaCredit:

According to Gallup Korea, support for Mr Moon has fallen to a four-month low, dropping from 73 per cent to 67 per cent.

The figures suggest that opposition to his policies has moved beyond the traditional conservative detractors of the left-leaning president to include his main support base among the youth.

Friday’s poll showed that Mr Moon’s approval rating among South Koreans in their 20s and 30s fell to 75 per cent and 82 per cent respectively, dropping by six and seven percentage points compared to the previous week’s rating.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un visiting the newly-renovated Pyongyang Teachers' University in PyongyangCredit:

The controversy reveals a South Korean public who are far less enthusiastic about the idea of unity on the Korean Peninsula than previous generations, a shifting dynamic which may influence Mr Moon’s future reconciliation efforts with the country’s isolated neighbour.

Younger South Koreans who did not experience the 1950-1953 Korean War or the impact of the ensuing division of the peninsula may have fewer ties to the North and less desire to reunite.

Mr Moon’s moves to integrate the two Koreas over the Winter Games in the South Korean mountain resort of Pyeongchang have been met with outrage on social media, with some complaining that “the Pyeonchang Olympics have already become the Pyongyang Olympics.”

In an effort to placate them, the president personally told players on Wednesday that showing unity and hope may be more important than winning.