Jakarta: One win into the Asian Games and the bigger picture is already clear for the combined Koreas basketball team.
Three North Korean players, including top-scorer Ro Suk Yong, and nine South Koreans combined for a 108-40 win over host Indonesia on the opening night of the women’s basketball preliminaries.
North Korea Olympic committee vice-chairman Won Kul U was asked about the combined basketball squad during his delegation’s welcoming ceremony in Jakarta on Thursday.
“Isn’t it good to have a joint team?” Won was quoted by Yonhap, the South Korean news agency. “I think we should have more unified teams in other sports.”
The Koreas will also be entering combined teams in rowing, canoeing and dragon boat racing in the Asian Games.
“I hope our Korean people can have a big achievement at the Asian Games” Won said. “Let’s show the united power of the North and the South.”
It is a significant step in the peace process in the peninsula, with both leaders Kim Jong Un (North) and Moon Jae-In (South) indicating a willingness to end the six-decade war between the countries.
The basketball team on Wednesday played under the symbol ‘COR’ and the unification flag of the blue outline of the Korean peninsula on a white background.
Fans from both North and South Korea were present and wore white T-shirts and waved the unification flag. The paper flags read Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang 2018 — One Dream, One Korea.
The two Koreas will march together at the opening ceremony on Saturday with 100 odd delegates each.
This was the fifth time in the history of sports that a unified Korea team has been fielded; the others have come at the World Table Tennis Championship in 1991 and 2018, the 1991 Fifa World Youth Championship and, most recently the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics women’s ice hockey team that captured hearts all around the world.
There will also be new ground in the dimpolmacy with combined Korean teams at the Asian Games including the men’s and women’s dragon boat racing, the men’s lightweight four, men’s lightweight eight and the women’s lightweight double sculls in rowing.
Praising the move, OCA’s Director General, Husain Al Musallam said: “We are very proud and happy that the Asian Games can contribute to the peace process on the Korean peninsula.
“The unified Korea team made history by competing together for the first time at the Asian Games and we are looking forward to seeing the other teams in action in the coming days.”
Al Musallam added that the women’s basketball game proved the power of sport to unite.
“It was not only the players from North Korea and South Korea who were together, but also the officials and the supporters,” said Al Musallam. “To see the Presidents of the two National Olympic Committees sitting alongside each other in the VIP area was a very significant moment.
“The OCA will do everything to support and encourage further cooperation between the two Koreas in the hopes of a lasting peace process for all the people on the Korean peninsula.”
— With agencies