International Ice Hockey Federation

Unified Korean Team

Unified Korean Team

35 players train together for historic project

Published 30.01.2018 21:04 GMT+10 | Author Martin Merk
Unified Korean Team
Soon in the jersey of the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team at the Olympics: players from North and South Korea shake hands after their game at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A in Gangneung that served as Olympic test event. Photo: Young-Chul Song
The 35-player roster for the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games has been named.

Athletes from the north and south of the Korean peninsula will walk under the unification flag at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games not for the first time. But for the first time ever in Olympic history athletes from the two Koreas will compete together as a team in an Olympic event at the 2018 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament.

To make this ambition with a short preparation time come true, 12 players from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (commonly known as “North Korea”) crossed on Thursday the normally closed border to join the 23 players of the Republic of Korea (“South Korea”) earlier than other athletes from the north and form a unified team.

According to the agreement between the two countries and the IOC and IIHF for this ambitious project, 22 players will be selected for each of the games from the exceptionally big tournament roster and at least three North Koreans will play in each game.

Ten months earlier at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A at the Olympic ice arenas in Gangneung, the two countries competed in the same division that served as a test event. Just crossing the border to compete was already historic considering that the inner-Korean border forms one of the biggest political divides. But after the game the two teams came together for a historic joint team photo to celebrate the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on 6 April 2017. It was much more important for the 5,800 fans in attendance than the result – the southern team edged their northern rivals 3-0.

It was also thanks to that gesture that the idea of a joint team was born when the governments of the two Koreas discussed sending North Korean athletes to the Olympics in the south. And eventually came to an agreement with about four weeks left.

The roster includes all 23 South Korean players who have already been preparing for the Olympics and have been together in a similar line-up for the past two years. That includes players like Do Hee Han, who was named the best goaltender of the tournament last year, or the scoring leader of that team, captain Jongah Park.

The team improved during the last years by becoming centralized and being joined by Koreans who have learned their hockey abroad. Six players have two citizenships and for them the 2018 Olympics means discovering their Korean roots. One of the interesting storylines is Yoonjung Park, who recovered her Korean citizenship. She was born in Korea and adopted by an American family. In the U.S. she is better known under the name Melissa Brandt and her (non-Korean) sister Hannah Brandt will be competing at the tournament as well, but for Team USA.

Last Thursday one goaltender, four defenders and seven forwards crossed the inner-Korean border to join their new colleagues in one of the most confidence-building measures between the two Koreas that are formally still in a state of ceasefire since the end of the Korean War in the 1950s. Also a coach, Chol Ho Pak, crossed the border and will join the team staff of the unified team that will compete under the unification flag and with a separate abbreviation (COR).

The 12 players were all on the team that came to Gangneung last April in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A, just that this time they will compete together on one team and with the Korean peninsula on the jersey. Among them are the top-two forward lines including two players who made the top-20 scoring list at the event, Su Hyong Jong and Un Hyang Kim. Most of them have competed for the DPR Korea national team for many years and they are aged between 21 and 28. The 28-year-old is Ok Jin, who on Sunday got her birthday cake in South Korea and represented DPR Korea in six IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship events.

The very youngest and oldest players on the unified team come from the south. Heewon Kim is just 16 and one of eight millennials on the team. Soojin Han is 30 and has represented the Republic of Korea in eight IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship events and two Asian Winter Games.

Sarah Murray from Canada will serve as the head coach of this historic team. The daughter of former NHL, Team Canada head coach and IIHF Hall of Fame member Andy Murray came to Korea in 2014 to improve the national team program and prepare the players for the Olympics. She will have plenty of players to choose from, which will be a challenge at the same time.

It’s 35 players who will compete in Group B against Sweden, Switzerland and Japan but who are also ambassadors of a historic sport and peace project in the not always easy relations between the two Koreas.

Goaltenders:
Dohee HAN, Ice Avengers (KOR)
Genevieve Kim KNOWLES, Phoenix (KOR)
Pom RI, Sajabong (PRK)
So Jung SHIN, Ice Beat (KOR)

Defence:
Mihwan CHO, Ice Avengers (KOR)
Jong Hui CHOE, Kimchaek (PRK)
Suyeon EOM, Ice Avengers (KOR)
Chung Gum HWANG, Taesongsan (PRK)
Sol Gyong HWANG, Jangjasan (PRK)
Selin KIM, Ice Avengers (KOR)
Chaelin PARK, Ice Beat (KOR)
Ye Eun PARK, Ice Beat (KOR)
Yoonjung PARK, Phoenix (KOR)
Su Jong RYU, Kimchaek (PRK)

Forwards:
Un Gyong CHOE, Susan (PRK)
Jiyeon CHOI, Ice Avengers (KOR)
Yujung CHOI, Ice Beat (KOR)
Randi Heesoo GRIFFIN, Phoenix (KOR)
Soojin HAN, Ice Beat (KOR)
Danelle IM, Phoenix (KOR)
Ok JIN, Kanggye (PRK)
Su Sie JO, Ice Beat (KOR)
Su Hyon JONG, Taesongsan (PRK)
Siyun JUNG, Ice Avengers (KOR)
Heewon KIM, Ice Avengers (KOR)
Hyang Mi KIM, Taesongsan (PRK)
Un Hyang KIM, Kanggye (PRK)
Un Jong KIM, Taesongsan (PRK)
Hyein KO, Ice Avengers (KOR)
Eunji LEE, Phoenix (KOR)
Jingyu LEE, Phoenix (KOR)
Yeon Jeong LEE, Ice Beat (KOR)
Caroline Nancy PARK, Phoenix (KOR)
Jongah PARK, Ice Avengers (KOR)
Song Hui RYO, Taesongsan (PRK)

Head Coach:
Sarah MURRAY

 

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