Tag Archive | "pyeongchang"

Meet the Korean Musicians who Rocked the PyeongChang Closing Ceremony

By Jenna Gibson

At the Closing Ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics yesterday, a wide variety of South Korean musicians showed the breadth of Korean music. From today’s hottest k-pop stars to metal to traditional Korean sounds, here is our look at the musicians who showed the world what Korean music has to offer. And, at the bottom, check out our Spotify playlist so you can sample more music from these great artists!


Yang Tae-Hwan

Just 13 years old, guitarist Yang Tae-Hwan rocked an electric guitar version of Vivaldi’s classic “Winter,” capturing the Internet’s attention immediately. Discovered at age 10 on the Korean show “Star King,” which allows ordinary people to come show off their talents, Yang has plenty of awesome music on his YouTube channel to keep you rocking out long after the Games are over.



Probably the most epic performance of the night, rock group Jambinai captivated the stadium with a powerful rendition of their song “Time of Extinction” backed by 80 musicians playing a traditional Korea instrument called the geomungo. The group mixes rock and metal influences with traditional Korean instruments, and describe their music as “POST ROCK, METAL, DARK, TRADITONAL, Avantgarde but NOT 퓨전국악 [fusion traditional Korean music] EVER.”


Jang Sa-ik

Debuting as a singer in 1994 at age 46, Jang Sa-ik has won acclaim for his powerful voice and emotional lyrics, often incorporating his background studying traditional Korean musical instruments and sounds into his music. He sang the Korean National Anthem at the Closing Ceremony accompanied by 23 children, representing the fact that PyeongChang was the 23rd Winter Olympics.


Second Moon

Evoking Korean traditional pansori sounds and mixed with Western instrumentals, Second Moon is an ethnic fusion band founded in 2004. They’re most famous for their OST music, creating songs for hit Korean dramas like Love in the Moonlight and The Legend of the Blue Sea.


Oh Yeon Joon

Known as “Jeju Boy” because of his island hometown, 11-year-old Oh Yeon Joon was discovered in 2016 on a singing competition show for children called “We Kid.” Yesterday, he brought his bright, clear voice to the closing ceremony, where he performed the Olympic Anthem.



Rapper, singer, songwriter, dancer – as NBC Commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir noted, CL can do it all. Formerly the leader of the now-disbanded k-pop supergroup 2NE1, CL has since started a solo career, periodically making inroads into the American market through appearances on The Late Late Show and collaborations with artists like Diplo. She performed not only one of her solo songs, “The Baddest Female,” but also the iconic 2011 2NE1 hit, “I Am the Best.”



Originally formed as two groups, targeting both the Korean and Chinese markets and releasing all their music in both Korean and Mandarin (and now making a recent debut in Japan), this international powerhouse performed some of their hit songs along with a dance solo intro featuring a more traditional Korean style. With lyrics like “Through this music, when we sing with one voice together, we get stronger,” EXO’s 2017 song “Power” brought a great Olympic spirit of unity to the Closing Ceremony.


Martin Garrix/DJ Raiden

In a bit of a disappointment for the many Twitter users hoping the night’s “surprise musical guest” would be Psy, Martin Garrix closed out the show, hyping up a massive dance party to round out the night. With Garrix and Korean DJ Raiden pumping up the crowd, the final performance put a fun note on the ending of the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang.



Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone. Image from Republic of Korea’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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A North Korean Thaw for the Winter Olympics?

By Jenna Gibson

Yesterday, high level delegations from South and North Korea sat down at Panmunjom to engage each other in the first inter-Korean talks in two years. The ultimate result of these talks was that the North Koreans agreed to send athletes, a high-level delegation, and other attendees to the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and further discussions on other topics may take place in the coming weeks. While few observers doubt the significance of these talks amid a period of increasingly inflammatory rhetoric and talk of preventative strikes by the United States, many disagree about what this agreement will mean for the Korean peninsula going forward.

Some experts are, rightly, skeptical about what this agreement truly means in terms of long-term improvement in inter-Korean relations, or that this is actually a sign of sincere desire for cooperation on the part of the North Koreans. It’s a fair concern – one only has to look back at the inter-Korean talks after 2015’s landmine incident to see that this kind of overture is only good until the next missile test.

However, even with that healthy skepticism in mind, that doesn’t mean that the two sides shouldn’t try to make these small improvements when they can. To return to the 2015 example – in the scheme of things, all that really came out of those talks were a temporary cooling off and a family reunion event. But I challenge anyone to try telling the handful of South Koreans who were able to see family members for the first time in decades that those discussions weren’t worth it.

However, while the opening of talks and the North Korean agreement to send athletes to PyeongChang can be seen as a victory in many ways, this should in no way be an occasion to weaken sanctions and diplomatic pressure on the North Korean regime. Not only would this be premature, given the aforementioned tendency on the part of Pyongyang to renege on any commitments a short time later, but it would also send the wrong message that pressure can be lifted with just a small concession.

So while people are right to see these talks and the Olympics agreement as a positive step, it is far too early to say this is a sign of North Koreas openness or willingness to engage in more formal talks that could make any real dent in the underlying problem on the peninsula – their nuclear and missile program.

“Everything depends on how North Korea behaves,” said Soojin Park, formerly of the South Korean Unification Ministry and now at the Wilson Center, at a KEI event held today. “What will be important will be how things go after the Olympics. Cautiously I’d like to think that during the Olympic period things won’t go too dramatically. After the Olympics, how North Korea reacts and behaves will be how South Korean perceptions of North Korea could change.”

KEI President Manzullo summed up the situation well in a response he wrote regarding last night’s announcement, “Of course, South Korea and the United States need to keep the ultimate goal of denuclearization in mind. But anything that can reduce the chances of a miscalculation or misunderstanding is a positive step.”

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone. Image from Wikipedia creative commons.

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PyeongChang 2018 Olympics: Will North Korea Participate?

By Juni Kim

In a year marked by turbulent Korean relations, the Rio Games provided the backdrop for two modest moments of North-South reconciliation. South Korean gymnast Lee Eun-ju posed with her fellow North Korean competitor Hong Un-jong for a selfie, which quickly became viral. A few days later, Kim Song-guk, the North Korean bronze medalist in the men’s 50m pistol, took the medal stand with the South Korean gold medalist Jin Jong-oh. In a press conference following the event, Kim remarked that their accomplishment would mean more for Korea if the two nations were unified. As the Rio Games come to a close, the realities and politics between the two neighboring countries will unfortunately overshadow these encouraging moments. With the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in the South Korean resort town of Pyeongchang, North Korea has demonstrated eagerness to attain a share of the South Korean limelight that comes with hosting the Olympic Games. However, North Korea’s diplomatic track record and recent provocations may jeopardize their participation in the 2018 Games.

When Seoul was selected to host the 1988 Summer Olympics, North Korea made a serious bid to co-host the Games despite never having officially submitted a hosting bid to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In 1985, North Korea proposed hosting half of the Olympic events in its capital Pyeongyang under the new moniker “Korea Pyongyang Seoul Olympic Games.” The IOC ultimately rejected North Korea’s proposals, though the IOC did consider hosting several events in Pyeongyang including soccer, archery, table tennis, cycling, and women’s volleyball. The North Korean delegation’s insistence on hosting no less than half of the events led to the derailment of the negotiations. Despite a last minute appeal by South Korea to encourage the North to participate, North Korea boycotted the Games.

North Korea’s inflexible and botched attempt to co-host the 1988 Olympics did not dissuade them from more modest attempts to hold part of the Pyeongchang Games. During South Korea’s second bid to host the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the North Korean national Olympic committee chair Chang Ung officially supported the bid only hours before the IOC selection committee’s decision. Chang also offered cooperation in fielding a united Korean team, similar to the unified Korean entrance in the opening ceremonies of the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

After Pyeongchang finally succeeded in its third bid, North Korea began the development of a ski resort in Kangwon province, which borders South Korea. Chang Ung acknowledged that the resort’s purpose was partially meant to serve as a potentially Olympic site. North Korea attempted to showcase its newly built Masikryong ski resort this past January by inviting famed professional snowboarders to test the slopes. American snowboarders Dan “Danimals” Liedahl and Mike Ravelson were among the invited group, but North Korea’s fourth nuclear test just days before the trip prompted the organizers to scrap the plan.

Although historically unified, Gangwon (Kangwon) province is split and administered by both Korean nations.

Although historically unified, Gangwon (Kangwon) province is currently split and administered by both Korean nations.

Despite the construction of the resort, the organizing committee for the 2018 Winter Games rejected co-hosting possibilities repeatedly by citing the technical and logistical limitations in sharing the Games. In a news release in 2013, the committee asserted, “We should make sure technology and administrative works are in optimal condition in order to host an event- and athlete-oriented Olympic Games. Holding some of the events in the Masik resort, more than 300 kilometers away from Pyeongchang, cannot guarantee meeting this goal.” Choi Moon-soon, governor of Pyeongchang’s Gangwon province, is one notable exception to South Korean opposition for co-hosting the Games. He expressed support last year in possibly sharing snowboarding and slalom events with North Korea. Shortly after the governor made the comments, the organizing committee reemphasized their opposition to co-hosting possibilities. Kwak Young-jin, the committee’s vice president of planning and administration, firmly rebuked, “With the construction for all competition venues already under way, we have already made it crystal clear that there is no point of discussing co-hosting of the Olympics.”

With the door shut on co-hosting possibilities, North Korea’s participation in the 2018 Olympics remains unclear. In the week prior to the Rio Olympics, the North Korean Olympic committee stated its hope to participate in the Pyeongchang Games, though the South Korean Unification Ministry indicated that North Korea’s participation depends on the IOC. Inter-Korean relations suffered major setbacks this year including North Korea’s January nuclear test, multiple missile launches, and South Korea’s closing of the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex, one of the few remaining avenues of North-South cooperation.  North Korean participation in the Games may be put in further jeopardy if the regime continues to carry out provocations.

Even with IOC approval, it is possible that North Korea may choose to boycott the Games for political reasons. Much like the 1988 Olympics, North Korea may feel slighted by not being able to host any events and withdraw participation in protest. Such a withdrawal would only further isolate the regime, which has drawn heavy international condemnation including the recent round of UN sanctions.

Both North and South Korea should not underestimate the importance of the 2018 Games for inter-Korean relations. In his book Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia, Victor Cha wrote, “Sport matters in world politics because it can create diplomatic breakthroughs (or breakdowns) in ways unanticipated by regular diplomacy. Just as a small white ping-pong ball promoted a thaw in relations between the United States and China, sport helped to end the Cold War in Asia and remains a unique instrument of diplomacy, building goodwill in a region of the world that lacks this commodity.”[1] Athletes like Lee Eun-ju and Kim Song-guk reflect this goodwill, and North Korea’s potential absence from the Pyeongchang Games would be a significant missed chance to improve North-South relations.

Juni Kim is the Program Manager and Executive Assistant at the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI). The views expressed here are the author’s alone. 

Photo from Republic of Korea’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

[1] Cha, Victor D. Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia. Columbia University Press, 2009.

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The Peninsula blog is a project of the Korea Economic Institute. It is designed to provide a wide ranging forum for discussion of the foreign policy, economic, and social issues that impact the Korean peninsula. The views expressed on The Peninsula are those of the authors alone, and should not be taken to represent the views of either the editors or the Korea Economic Institute. For questions, comments, or to submit a post to The Peninsula, please contact us at ts@keia.org.