Jakarta: 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 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 September 2.
South Korea will next face India on Thursday at the same venue. South Korea are the defending champions in women’s handball, and they have 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 haven’t reached the podium since.
South Korea led 12-5 early and closed the first half 17-12 up. North Korea never really threatened the rest of the way, with Han Chun-yon leading the attack 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. “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 semi-finals. The Koreas will field unified teams in women’s 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.