It’s Not Enough to Win: The Seoul Olympics and Roots of North Korea’s Isolation

Sergey Radchenko

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5 Citations (SciVal)


The article recounts the story of the secret negotiations between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), North and South Korea, in the run-up to the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The author contends that the Games offered an opportunity for the South Korean leadership to isolate and humiliate North Korea; that the head of IOC Juan Antonio Samaranch played an important – and conscious – role in the process; and that the trilateral talks in Lausanne, under the IOC auspices, were meant not so much to bring about Pyongyang's participation in the Olympiad, as to dissuade the socialist bloc from a potentially damaging boycott. Both China and the Soviet Union, however, proved all too willing to disregard the interests of their ally and did little to encourage an accommodating attitude on Seoul's part. The author concludes that the success of the Seoul Olympic Games actually contributed to the long-term instability on the Korean peninsula by humiliating North Korea into taking the stand of militant defiance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1243-1262
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number9
Early online date03 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • 1988 Seoul Olympics
  • Sport and Politics
  • Juan Antonio Samaranch
  • Sport and Cold War
  • Korea
  • North and South


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