Unified Korean teams bid for glory in Indonesia

Six months ago, athletes from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea paraded together under the Unification Flag at the PyeongChang 2018 Opening Ceremony.

It was a symbolic moment, which IOC President Thomas Bach admitted gave him "goosebumps".

On Saturday, the joint Korean march will be repeated at the Asian Games Opening Ceremony in Jakarta, Indonesia.

TEAM-MATES AND ADVERSARIES

The two Koreas have marched together at previous Asian Games, in 2002 and 2006.

But, taking the lead from the women's ice hockey team in PyeongChang, this is the first time athletes from the nations will compete together at an Asian Games.

In Indonesia, there are combined crews in men's and women's rowing and canoeing.

There is also a unified Korean women's basketball team, which starts off against the hosts in the preliminary round later on Wednesday.

The two Koreas faced each other in friendly matches in the North Korean capital Pyeongyang last month, meeting for just the fourth time in 15 years.

Players from the two Koreas greet each other during the inter-Korean women's basketball friendly in Pyeongyang on July 4, 2018
Players from the two Koreas greet each other during the inter-Korean women's basketball friendly in Pyeongyang on July 4, 2018Players from the two Koreas greet each other during the inter-Korean women's basketball friendly in Pyeongyang on July 4, 2018

Meanwhile, the first inter-Korean match has already taken place in Jakarta.

It went the way of the Republic of Korea who defeated DPR Korea 39-22 in the women's handball prelims taking place before Saturday's opening ceremony.

SPORT AND RECONCILIATION

Relations between the two Koreas have ebbed and flowed over the years.

North Korea boycotted the 1998 Olympic Games held in the South Korean capital Seoul, but three years later they competed as a combined team for the first time at the World Table Tennis Championships.

The Sydney 2000 Olympics saw the first of several joint marches at an opening ceremony, but Torino 2006 was the last until PyeongChang.

The two countries have used sport as a means of dialogue and diplomacy, especially in recent months.

The unified Korea women's ice hockey team may have lost all of their matches at the Winter Olympics, but the message of hope they conveyed was far greater than the results.

And the one goal they did manage in PyeongChang was perhaps the most joyfully received moment of the Games.

If a combined team was to win Asian Games gold, the traditional folk song ‘Arirang’ – considered the unofficial unified Korea anthem – would be played at the victory ceremony.

There will be many people hoping to hear that played before the event ends on September 2nd.

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