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Amidst Olympic euphoria, we must not forget the misery of North Korea, says Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luff
6:22pm Thursday 2nd August 2012 in News
I’M sure, despite the G4S security debacle and the unoccupied seat concerns, that the Olympics will be a huge success and that they will bring huge pleasure and excitement to participants and spectators alike.
Sadly the world remains a deeply troubled place for their duration. Of course the tragic events in Syria are in everyone’s minds, but the North Korean flag controversy at the women’s football on the very first day of the Games is another reminder of the world’s divisions.
Last month, in my role as a defence minister, I went to South Korea, a country for whose freedom more than 1,000 British men gave their lives some 60 years ago. The war they fought has never legally ended – but a sometimes fragile armistice has endured to the present day. So North Korea remains at war with South Korea, and that war has cost life as recently as 2010 when a South Korean naval vessel was sunk by the North.
While I was in Korea I went to the de-militarised zone (DMZ), which separates the South from the deeply repressive North. To enter the huts that straddle the boundary between the two countries is something I will always remember. To cross into a country where millions of its people live in fear, and then to leave so easily, is very troubling. It did, though, have a bizarrely comic element as North Korean guards looked through the hut’s windows and took photographs of the visitors from the South. I was then asked by my South Korean friends to pose for my own photograph to be taken – with the North Korean guards looking through the window behind me, taking their photographs of me.
The continued division between one people – the Koreans – and the appalling treatment of the people of North Korea by their leaders are scandals that should outrage the world, but which too often go forgotten.
Both countries are competing at London 2012.
The flag confusion shows that they have not been able to put their tragic division behind them during the Games.
I will be thinking of what I saw last month and wishing earnestly that Korea will one day participate in the Olympics as a united and free nation under a single flag.