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North and South Korean athletes to compete together

Relations between North Korea and South Korea remain fragile despite their recent agreement to march under one flag for the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics taking place in South Korea from February 9-25. The two Koreas have agreed to compete together in women’s ice hockey in Pyeongchang, announced by the South Korean Unification Ministry.

This is not the first time North and South Korean athletes have marched together. In 2000, the two Koreas marched under the Unification Flag at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, but competed separately. The administration of Moon Jae-in, the incumbent South Korean president, has long supported Korean unification, and hopes to move in that direction by defusing the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. In his New Year’s press conference, Moon said that his goal was to “resolve the North Korean nuclear problem and solidify peace during [his] term.”

However, Moon’s goal of reunification faces challenges. Recently, North Korea cancelled a joint cultural performance event, planned for February 4 in Pyeongchang, after blaming South Korean media for encouraging offensive messages regarding the north. South Koreans’ concerns regarding such challenges are reflected in the 2017 Unification Perception Survey conducted by Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies; while 53.9 per cent of South Koreans believe reunification is necessary, only 24.7 per cent believe unification is possible.

In addition to the animosity from North Korea, the unified inter-Korean women’s hockey team at the Pyeongchang Olympics has sparked controversy, with over 47,000 signatures signed in a petition against the team to the Blue House. Meanwhile, President Moon Jae-In’s approval rating is below 60 per cent for the first time since he took office in 2017. Issues such as the joint hockey team, and mandatory military enlistments have proven to be a sensitive issue among the younger generation, which may reflect on the survey results.

Shooting in Calais leaves four teenage migrants in critical condition

At least 18 migrants have been left injured following violent clashes in a migrant camp near the port city of Calais, in northern France, on Friday February 3. Four of the migrants, aged 16 to 18, are in critical condition. This week’s brawl represents ostensibly the worst violence in migrant camps since clashes in July 2017, which wounded 16 migrants. Clashes from the previous year, in June 2016, injured at least 40 people. Police reinforcements have been sent in response to the heightened tensions, a decision many local and international observers say will do little to solve such tensions.

Human rights workers in the country have asserted that the French government has imposed tougher attitudes towards migrants. Meanwhile, migrants’ chances of reaching Britain, the final destination for most asylum seekers in Calais, are reaching new lows. Four days prior to the attack, Theresa May pledged an extra £44.5 million to strengthen border security in the area.

Calais notably gained international repute in October 2016 with the French police’s dismantling of an area known dimunitively as “The Jungle,” a refugee encampment in the city which was once home to between 6,000 and 10,000 people before the dismantlement.

“Under no circumstances will we allow the Jungle to come back,” President Macron said in early January of 2018. Since his acceding the presidency, Macron has ramped up expulsions, put pressure on economic migrants, and allowed for divisive ID checks in emergency shelters. Now a mere 500 to 800 migrants remain in Calais.

Reports by Human Rights Watch denounced the scope of police brutality in the encampments, where there is frequent use of pepper sprays, daily identity checks, confiscation of items, and harassment with provocation. The conditions in Calais have been described as “inhumane living conditions” for asylum seekers, due to degrading treatment and disruption of humanitarian aid.

Written with material from the NY Times, BBC, ABC, and The Telegraph.