Driver of Peace? Ping-Pong Diplomacy on The Korean Peninsula


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Amongst the various examples of sport influencing politics, the role of table tennis in facilitating ground-breaking connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China – the so-called “ping-pong diplomacy” of the early 1970s – is probably the most-cited. However, the use of this sport has not been confined to those two major powers; rather, there have been attempts to utilize it to bring about reconciliation to the long-standing inter-Korean enmity. However, in the case of divided nations (such as on the Korean peninsula), sport takes on the nature of not only a competitive rivalry but also an overtly political struggle for legitimacy. Politics drive sport, not the other way around. By utilizing unpublished British and American archives and by examining the cases of the World Table Tennis Championships held in Pyongyang in 1979 and Japan in 1991 as well as the post-PyeongChang Winter Olympics events, the inflated expectations and ultimate limitations of using sport in general—and table tennis in particular—as a utilitarian force for reconciliation between the two Koreas are shown.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-104
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Journal of Korean History
Issue number2
Early online date30 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • table tennis
  • North Korea
  • South Korea
  • world championships
  • reconciliation


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