South Korea brings curtain down on 'Peace Games'

North Korean and South Korean athletes carry their own flags along with the unified Korea flag in the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics on Feb 25, 2018.
North Korean and South Korean athletes carry their own flags along with the unified Korea flag in the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics on Feb 25, 2018. PHOTO: NYTIMES

PYEONGCHANG (South Korea) • South Korea brought the curtain down on its "Peace Games" last night, with winter sports athletes dancing and singing together at a vibrant closing ceremony, though there was little warmth between dignitaries from the United States and North Korea.

South Korea President Moon Jae In, who hopes to use these Games as an opportunity to engage with the North, warmly greeted US President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka before offering a brief handshake to North Korean delegation leader Kim Yong Chol.

Mr Kim, who led an eight-member high-level delegation, had crossed the Demilitarised Zone in the morning.

Despite the cool body language between President Moon and Mr Kim, the South Korean leader's efforts may be bearing fruit. His presidential office said yesterday that members of the North Korean delegation had expressed the North's openness to talks with the US.

Ms Trump sat front and centre, beside Mr Moon's wife, while North Korea's Mr Kim was seated a row behind, decked out in a long black jacket and furry hat. Sitting two seats along from him was General Vincent Brooks, the commander of US Forces Korea.

US Vice-President Mike Pence also actively avoided North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong during the opening ceremony, even though they were sitting just metres apart.

The White House revealed afterwards that they had a plan to meet on the day after the opening, Feb 10, but the North Koreans backed out.

The two Koreas marched behind their own flags as the curtain fell on two weeks of competition against a backdrop of diplomatic manoeuvring.

Unlike the Games' opening, the North and South Korean athletes marched separately and waving their national flags, although some North Koreans held the blue-and-white Korean Unification emblem.

North Korea's willingness to talk was the latest conciliatory move by the reclusive state during the Games, where the two Koreas formed their first joint Olympic team, in women's ice hockey.

Ms Kim had also brought an invitation for Mr Moon to visit Pyongyang, and the South Korean leader said he would work to create the "right conditions" for the visit.

The joint team did not win a game, but the symbolic gesture was warmly welcomed - and vocally supported by the North's immaculately drilled female cheering squad.

The North Korean delegation is due to stay until tomorrow, while Ms Trump will leave today.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2018, with the headline 'S. Korea brings curtain down on 'Peace Games''. Print Edition | Subscribe