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Koreas team up at table tennis worlds

South Korea and North Korea have formed a joint team at the ongoing table tennis world championships, the sport's Seoul officials said Thursday.

The Korea Table Tennis Association said the two Koreas agreed to join forces during the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden. They were supposed to face each other in the quarterfinals later Thursday but have instead advanced to the semifinals without playing.
  
This is the first joint Korean table tennis team since the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba City, Japan, when the unified women's team, led by South Korean Olympic champion Hyun Jung-hwa and North Korean star Li Bun-hui, won the gold medal.

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

The two have agreed not to cut any of the current five South Korean and four North Korean players for the semifinals. The South Korean players are: Jeon Ji-hee, Kim Ji-ho, Suh Hyo-won, Yang Ha-eun and Yoo Eun-chong. The North Koreans are: Cha Hyo-sim, Choe Hyon-hwa, Kim Nam-hae and Kim Song-i.
   
The joint squad will be called Korea. Should the new team reach the podium, all nine players will receive a medal, and both South Korean and North Korean national flags will be raised in the medal ceremony. The athletes will each don their respective national uniforms, since their teams were brought together during the tournament and hadn't prepared any joint gear.
   
In Sweden, the Korean team will face the winner of a quarterfinal match between Ukraine and Japan.
   
The KTTA said ITTF President Thomas Weikert helped arrange the joint team at the worlds. The KTTA has also proposed a unified Korean team at this year's Asian Games in Indonesia, pending the ITTF's approval. The KTTA said it would like to see both Koreas retain their allotted roster spots -- two players each in the men's and women's singles, two teams each in the mixed doubles and five players in the team event -- even if they combine their teams.
   
On Wednesday in Halmstad, female players from the two Koreas played an exhibition doubles match during the launching ceremony of the ITTF Foundation. Suh Hyo-won of South Korea and Kim Nam-hae of North Korea teamed up against Yang Ha-eun of South Korea and Choe Hyon-hwa of North Korea.
   
During the event, Ju Jong-chol, secretary general of the North Korean Table Tennis Association, said that while his organization is positive about a joint Korean team, no official decision has been made by the relevant authorities.
   
Talks for joint Korean teams at the Asian Games gained traction last week following the inter-Korean summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. A joint declaration issued after their historic encounter stated that the two sides "agreed to demonstrate their collective wisdom, talents and solidarity by jointly participating in international sports events, such as the 2018 Asian Games." (Yonhap)

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