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North Korea and the 2018 Olympic Games

North Korea recently hinted that it would be interested in co-hosting the 2018 Olympics with Pyeongchang, South Korea. Though the organizing committee for Pyeongchang rejected the idea as unrealistic, the North’s proposal is not without precedent, as documents obtained by the North Korea International Documentation Project demonstrate.

North Korea and the 2018 Olympic Games

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”.


North Korea International Documentation Project

The North Korea International Documentation Project serves as an informational clearinghouse on North Korea for the scholarly and policymaking communities, disseminating documents on the DPRK from its former communist allies that provide valuable insight into the actions and nature of the North Korean state. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program uses history to improve understanding of important global dynamics, trends in international relations, and American foreign policy.  Read more

Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy

The Center for Korean History and Public Policy was established in 2015 with the generous support of the Hyundai Motor Company and the Korea Foundation to provide a coherent, long-term platform for improving historical understanding of Korea and informing the public policy debate on the Korean peninsula in the United States and beyond.  Read more