North, South Korea agree to joint sports events and create combined teams for Asian Games

North, South Korea agree to joint sports events and create combined teams for Asian Games

North Korea, South Korea
A handout photo taken and provided by South Korean Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry on Jun 18, 2018 shows South Korea's chief delegate Jeon Choong-ryul (right) shaking hands with his North Korean counterpart Won Kil U (left). (Photo: AFP / South Korean Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry / Handout)

SEOUL: North and South Korea have agreed to hold a joint basketball match in Pyongyang and to form some combined teams at August's Asian Games in Indonesia, the two countries announced on Monday (Jun 18), after a day of negotiations at their shared border.

The basketball match will take place on Jul 4, marking the anniversary of an inter-Korean agreement on unification, they said in a joint statement. Another match will be held in Seoul later in the year.

The athletes from the two sides will march together under a unified peninsula flag and the country name "Korea" during the opening and closing ceremony of the Asian Games, as they did in the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February.

They also agreed to create combined teams for the upcoming games and for other international competitions, and will hold more discussions to work out details.

"We will try to materialise the spirit and principles agreed between high-level officials of South and North Korea with the belief that sports can act as a guide for better inter-Korean exchanges," said Mr Jeon Choong-ryul, secretary general of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee, according to Yonhap.

"As we all witnessed during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, sports gave a chance to initiate better inter-Korean relations," he added.

The agreement comes as the two Koreas hold multiple talks to discuss deepening their ties.

The two Koreas will hold Red Cross talks at Mount Kumgang on Friday, Yonhap reported. The discussions Friday will focus on the reunions of families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War. The two Koreas agreed in a historic summit on Apr 27 to reunite separated families on Aug 15, which they mark annually to commemorate liberation from Japanese rule.

During Friday's meet, the two Koreas are expected to fine-tune details of the date and the scale of the family reunions while seeking more solutions to the humanitarian issue of divided families, Yonhap added. 

North and South Korea formed their first-ever unified Olympic team - a joint women's ice hockey squad - for the 2018 Winter Games.

The idea for a joint team at Pyeongchang Olympics initially sparked backlash in the South, on the grounds that Seoul was depriving its own athletes of the chance to compete on the Olympic stage.

Ultimately, the sight of North and South Korean players wearing the same jerseys drew emotive responses from spectators and the squad quickly became an Olympic favourite, despite being thrashed all their matches.

The rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula was triggered earlier this year when Kim decided to send athletes, cheerleaders and his sister as an envoy to the Pyeongchang Games.

Diplomatic efforts have gathered pace since, leading to a landmark summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore last week.

Source: Agencies/na