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North Korea's Olympic Wins Were Diplomatic, Not Athletic

The Hermit Kingdom's Olympic participation didn't net the country any medals, but it might have thawed diplomatic ties between it and South Korea.
Posted at 1:14 PM, Feb 26, 2018

The Winter Olympics in South Korea have come to a close, and so has North Korea's latest effort to make diplomatic inroads with the world.

The Hermit Kingdom softened its typically belligerent international image during the games, likely in hopes of opening negotiations to ease harsh sanctions it's facing. A slew of last-minute negotiations let North Korea send 22 athletes to the Olympics, along with cheerleaders and other officials.

Athletically, the games were a bust for the North. The country didn't win any medals, and the joint Korean women's hockey team went 0-5 in its debut Olympics.

But North Korea's "charm offensive" went over relatively well in South Korea. Despite the several angry protests against the North being there, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other officials held talks with high-ranking North Korean authorities — like the sister of regime leader Kim Jong-un and a controversial North Korean general.

The North-South thawing hasn't led to many concrete agreements yet, but it threatened to split South Korea and the U.S. At the games, Vice President Mike Pence and White House adviser Ivanka Trump gave the North the cold shoulder.

And the U.S. recently levied new sanctions against North Korea and responded to Pyongyang's diplomatic overtures by saying any talks with the North must work toward ending the country's nuclear weapons program.

Any lingering Olympic goodwill between the Koreas could be put to the test during the next joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises. The drills were postponed for the Olympics, but the two countries reportedly plan to announce a new round before April.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.