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Korean hockey team hailed as symbol of unity within peninsula

PyeongChang, Tuesday @peoplesport11

The once-improbable Olympic journey has come to an end for the unified Korean women’s hockey team, which, even with losses piling up, has been hailed in many corners as a symbol of peace.

Korea lost to Sweden 6-1 in the seventh place match of the women’s tournament at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and it was the team’s final contest of the competition. Korea lost all five games it played here by a combined score of 28-2.

In the minds of those who engineer it all behind the scenes, from bureaucrats to national and international sports administrators, the team’s win-loss record and other stats don’t mean much in the big picture. The 23 South Koreans and 12 North Koreans who came together for the Olympics came to represent peace on the divided Korean Peninsula.

Technically at war with one another since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, the two sides had never fielded a joint team before at any Olympics. They have held sports-related talks and engaged in sports exchanges in the past. But combining teams for the first Winter Olympics in South Korea was on a whole different level.

During the opening ceremony of PyeongChang 2018, South Korean forward Park Jong-ah and North Korean forward Jong Su-hyon even carried the Olympic flame together, running up the steps while holding the torch before handing it over to the cauldron lighter, former figure skating star Kim Yu-na. The unified team project was a divisive issue at the beginning.

One camp said there couldn’t have been a better way to realise PyeongChang’s vision of hosting a “Peace Olympics” than bringing the two Koreas together. The other camp countered that South Korean athletes were being unfairly asked to cede their playing time and make room for North Koreans and that the two governments were using the sport of hockey as a political tool.

The team opened the Olympic tournament in a frenzied, circus-like atmosphere, with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the stands alongside Kim Yo-jong, sister of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The young team, with a handful of teenagers, was a nervous wreck and lost to Switzerland 8-0. – AFP

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