2 Koreas Form Unified Table Tennis Team in Surprise Move in Sweden

  • By Lee Tae-dong

    May 04, 2018 10:35

    The South and North Korean table tennis squads abruptly formed a unified team at the ongoing World Team Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden.

    After a trilateral meeting on Thursday, officials of the table tennis associations of the two Koreas and the International Table Tennis Federation announced that the two Korean squads will play in the semifinals as a unified team.

    The South Korean team had advanced directly to the quarterfinals after finishing on top in its group, while the North Korean team also reached the quarterfinals by defeating Russia in the round of 16 after finishing second in its group.

    The two Korean teams were expected to play each other in the quarterfinals. But the joint team will now play the winner of a match between Japan and Ukraine in the semifinals.

    It is the first unified Korean team in 27 years, since the World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan in 1991, where they won the gold medal. 

    South Korea’s Suh Hyo-won (left) and North Korea’s Kim Nam-hae play an exhibition game in Halmstad, Sweden on Thursday. /Courtesy of Korea Table Tennis Association

    The two Korean teams arrived at the Halmstad Arena on Thursday morning expecting to play each other. Instead, they celebrated the formation of a unified team. The South and North Korean players put their arms around each other and waved to spectators amid tremendous applause.

    The arena announcer said, "You're now watching a historic scene." Suh Hyo-won, the captain of the South Korea team, said, "We'll surely win the semifinal match by joining forces." Kim Song-i of the North Korean team added, "I'm proud that the two Koreas have now become a one team. We'll do our best."

    As they did at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the unified team will play under the name "Korea" (abbreviated as "COR"). The players from the two Koreas will, however, continue wearing their own country's uniform.

    The unified team consists of nine players, five from South Korea and four from the North. The final three players for team matches will be chosen after consultations between the head coaches of the two Korean teams.

    The South Korean team is currently ranked fifth and the North Korean squad 22nd in the world.

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