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Asian Games

Asian Games: Can Koreas form joint teams in more sports?

JAKARTA: North Korea’s vice sports minister said Thursday that the Koreas should form joint teams in more sports if they can.
Won Kil-u made the remarks after the team welcoming ceremony at the athletes’ village for North Koreans competing at the Asian Games in Jakarta. Won is also the chef de mission for the North Korean team.
The two Koreas will compete together as one team in women’s basketball, dragon boat racing in canoeing and rowing at the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, but Won said that they should assemble many more united teams in other sports.
“Isn’t it good to have a joint team?” Won said in reply to a question on women’s basketball. “I think we should have more unified teams in other sports.”
Won added that he talked with an official from the South’s Korean Olympic & Sports Committee Thursday morning about having unified Korea teams in other sports.
One North Korean official later added that the two Koreas are currently discussing sending a joint handball team to the world championships.
Won said the Koreas should display “united power” at the Asian Games. “I hope our Korean people can have a big achievement at the Asian Games,” he said. “Let’s show the united power of the North and the South.”

A relevant piece published earlier:

South Korea defeated North Korea 39-22 in women’s handball on Tuesday in the first inter-Korean showdown at the 18th Asian Games.

Jung Yu-ra led a balanced South Korean attack with a game-high 12 goals in the breezy Group A victory at GOR Popki Cibubur in Jakarta.

The opening ceremony for the Asian Games is Saturday in Jakarta, but preliminary matches in handball, football and basketball will be played beforehand to accommodate long schedules. The closing ceremony is Sept. 2.

South Korea will next face India on Thursday at the same venue. South Korea is the defending champion in women’s handball, and the country has won six of the seven gold medals since the event was added to the Asian Games in 1990. North Korea won silver behind South Korea in 1998 but hasn’t reached the podium since.

South Korea led 12-5 early and closed the first half up 17-12. North Korea never really threatened the rest of the way, with Han Chun-yon leading its offense with five goals.

South Korean players said afterward that it was a unique experience to face North Koreans. “We were a bit nervous because we didn’t know anything about North Korean players,” said Jung, the top scorer. “When I fell down during the game, North Koreans came to me and asked if I was OK. I was really grateful.”

South Korean captain Yoo Hyun-Ji said she had never taken a pre-game group photo with players from the two teams all mixed in with one another like the Koreans did before Tuesday’s contest. “I spoke to a few North Korean players before the start, and it felt different,” Yoo added.

There are two groups of five nations at this year’s Asian Games. The two Koreas are in Group A along with Kazakhstan, China, and India. The Group B nations are Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Malaysia. The top two countries from each group after round-robin play will advance to the semifinals.

The Koreas will field unified teams in women’s 5-on-5 basketball, dragon boat racing in canoeing and three events in rowing. They will also march together behind the Korean Unification Flag at Saturday’s opening ceremony.

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.