Japanese teams are made up of athletes from both the Kansai and Kanto regions and there is no language barrier to hinder communication. But what if Japan had been divided after World War II?

This thought popped into my head when I learned that a language issue faces members of the joint South Korean and North Korean ice hockey team.

A South Korean player was quoted by the media as saying, "When we are playing with our North counterparts, there are times when we can't understand what they are saying, and vice versa."

Even though they speak the same language, it has obviously evolved differently over time across the border. For instance, the word "pass," used in the South, is always spoken as "yeonlag" (meaning "contact") in North Korea.

The team's Canadian coach apparently gives instructions in English, and this is being translated into both the North and South versions of Korean.

This anecdote reminds us that the Korean Peninsula has been divided for 70 years. A recent South Korean opinion poll revealed that younger people were less inclined toward Korean reunification, and were more likely to perceive North Koreans as "threatening neighbors" rather than compatriots.

In the Feb. 9 opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the Korean squad will march under a united flag.

Even though politics must be kept out of the Olympics, it is never easy to completely rid the Games of political and nationalistic elements. This is precisely why I hope the audience will applaud athletes who give their all to their pursuits, irrespective of their nationality.

There is the caveat, "Do not be fooled by North Korea's false smile." This may well be on the money, given the military parade that took place in Pyongyang on Feb. 8 and the nation's continued nuclear weapon and missile development.

But without North-South cooperation, the Pyeongchang Games would be held under a constant fear of terrorism or military action.

There are limits to the creation of peace through sports. Still, I am reminding myself anew that the Olympics can be held only if there is peace, and that peace is what this quadrennial extravaganza seeks.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 9

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.