International Ice Hockey Federation

Crossing 38°N

Crossing 38°N

North Korean players arrive to form unified team

Published 25.01.2018 22:26 GMT+10 | Author Martin Merk
Crossing 38°N
The North Korean players and staff were welcomed at the Jincheon National Training Center after travelling from the north to the south on Thursday. Photo: Song Kyung-Seok / Reuters
Normally the border is strictly closed and heavily guarded but today a delegation of North Korean hockey players and officials crossed the border to the south.

The 2018 Olympic Winter Games will be joined by athletes from the northern part of the peninsula following the breakthrough discussions between the involved parties on Saturday. The athletes will march together at the opening and closing ceremonies with the unification flag and some individual athletes will compete and travel to PyeongChang 2018 later.

The most remarkable move, however, is to have a unified team in a team sport with athletes from the two Koreas that have been separated for over 60 years after the Korean War.

In women’s ice hockey the two teams are not far apart from each other also on the ice. The 23 players from the Republic of Korea (“South Korea”, 22nd in the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Ranking) will stay together but will be joined by 12 players from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“North Korea”, 25th in the ranking) and be granted an exception to have 35 players on the tournament roster of the unified team.

However, the game-day roster will remain at 22 like for all teams in the tournament and according to the agreement at least three North Korean players will play in each game.

The joint team was first proposed at high-level inter-Korean talks between the administrations of the two countries on 9th January before reaching an agreement and working on the details that were approved and announced on Saturday in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the International Olympic Committee is headquartered following discussions on how to integrate the new players with the IOC and the IIHF.

In order to prepare for the historic team effort, the 12 players came to South Korea on Thursday and earlier than the other athletes. The delegation crossed the demilitarized zone around the 38th parallel north that divides the Korean peninsula near the cities of Kaesong and Paju. They were brought to Jincheon, about 90 kilometres south of Seoul where the South Korean players have been practising.

The 12 players crossed the border in apparel with the DPR Korea flag but will soon be equipped with new apparel for the unified Korean women’s team. The team will compete under the unification flag picturing the Korean peninsula and will have a different abbreviation (COR instead of KOR) in the Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament.

The delegation coming from the north were welcomed with flowers by their new Korean colleagues from the south, head coach Sarah Murray and Mongwon Chung, the President of the Korea Ice Hockey Association governing the sport in the south.

According to South Korean news agency Yonhap it was agreed that the players from the north and south will run separate practices before they will officially be joined together to practise as a unified team as of next week.

On 4th February the team will play an exhibition game against Sweden before starting the 2018 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament on 10th February against Switzerland.

The full 35-player roster will be published on IIHF.com at a later date.

 

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