If they form a unified team for the Pyeongchang Olympics, it would be a major milestone in inter-Korean relations. South Korean officials hope such a feat would help create a thaw on the Korean Peninsula after years of tensions spurred by the North’s nuclear and missile tests.
North Korea has yet to announce whether it wants to attend the Pyeongchang Olympics. The North and South remain bitter political and sports rivals.
When the South hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, in Seoul, the North boycotted it. But strong ethnic nationalism also compels people in one Korea to cheer for the other Korea when it competes with any other country, especially Japan, which once ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony.
Efforts by both sides to seek reconciliation through sports exchanges have sometimes led to breakthroughs. In 1991, the two Koreas fielded a joint team to an international table-tennis championship and international youth soccer tournament.
In 2000, the year the two countries held their historic first summit meeting, their delegations marched together at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. They again marched together at the 2004 Athens Olympics, using the single name “Korea” and carrying a “Korea is one” flag. But they competed separately in 2000 and 2004.
The potential implications of millions of Koreans cheering together for their unified team could be huge — a prospect that could further advance Mr. Moon’s policy of promoting dialogue and exchanges with the North.
But past efforts to form a unified Olympic team have all faltered over politically delicate details such as whether a joint team should have an equal number of players from each side, which side should choose the head coach and where the team would train.
Such efforts for unity in sports also provide a testing ground for overcoming obstacles to reunification. For instance, after seven decades of division, athletes from the two Koreas use…