Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony Sees Historic Handshake Between North and South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. (Kim Ju-sung/Yonhap via AP)

Diplomacy and sporting endeavor mixed awkwardly at the spectacular opening of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, as sworn adversaries sat feet apart while North Korea received a welcome that would have been unthinkable just months ago.

In a ceremony infused with themes of peace and harmony, South Korean President Moon Jae-in twice shook hands with Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. US Vice President Mike Pence, sitting a few seats away in the same VIP booth, looked stony faced as the extraordinary scenes unfolded.

The unprecedented encounter between the two senior Koreans fueled hopes that the Olympics could succeed where a generation of world leaders has failed — to lay the groundwork, however tentatively, to a process of reconciliation on a peninsula that often appears one wrong move away from nuclear conflict.

Minutes into the ceremony, as children skipped through a mythical landscape, Moon greeted Kim Yo Jong and North Korea’s 90-year-old ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam, the head of the North’s Olympic delegation.

Kim Yo Jong, the first member of the North’s ruling dynasty to visit the south since the end of the Korean War in 1953, smiled broadly as they shook hands.

Then, the two figures from opposite sides of a divided Korea watched as athletes from their respective nations marched together under a unified flag.

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SOURCE: CNN, James Masters and Aimee Lewis