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[PyeongChang 2018] Joint Korean hockey team players separated at athletes' village

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Members of the joint Korean women's hockey team will stay in separate apartment buildings inside their athletes' village during the PyeongChang Winter Games.

The joint team played its much-anticipated first match against Sweden in an exhibition game on Sunday in Incheon, just west of Seoul. After dropping the game 3-1, the team traveled more than 230 kilometers east to Gangneung, a sub-host city which will stage all ice events, and checked in to Gangneung Olympic Village around 1 a.m. Monday.

The 23 South Koreans players and the 12 North Koreans have been training together since late January, but inside the village, they will be staying in different apartments.

In this Joint Press Corps photo, members of the joint Korean women`s hockey team line up at center ice after losing to Sweden 3-1 in an exhibition game at Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon on Feb. 4, 2018. (Yonhap)
In this Joint Press Corps photo, members of the joint Korean women`s hockey team line up at center ice after losing to Sweden 3-1 in an exhibition game at Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon on Feb. 4, 2018. (Yonhap)

Head coach Sarah Murray held out hope that her players would stay together.

The women's team is the first joint Korean squad in any sport in the Olympic history. The Koreas reached an agreement on the idea on Jan. 17, and the International Olympic Committee approved it three days later.

Under the IOC's terms, at least three North Koreans must play in each game at the Olympics. Though the Korean team has an expanded entry of 35 players, 12 more than all the others, the actual game roster is set at 22 players, with 20 skaters and two goaltenders.

In Sunday's game, Murray used four North Korean players: forwards Jong Su-hyon, Kim Un-hyang and Ryo Song-hui, and defenseman Hwang Chung-gum. None made much of an impact, but Murray said after the game she was still "proud" of the North Korean players and praised their work ethic.

Korea is scheduled to have its first practice later Monday at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung. Its first game at the Olympics is against Switzerland on Saturday, followed by Sweden next Monday and Japan on Feb. 14.

The joint team's uniform features the image of the Korean Peninsula on the chest, with the word "KOREA" written on top. Instead of the respective anthems of the Koreas, the traditional tune of "Arirang" will be the anthem for the joint team. (Yonhap)

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