SPORTS

Unified Korean team delivers historic medals, hopes

By Yonhap
  • Published : Sept 2, 2018 - 11:26
  • Updated : Sept 2, 2018 - 11:26

JAKARTA -- Together, they were strong.

The unified Korean team at the 18th Asian Games showed that it can do more than just serve as a symbol of peace and friendship.

This time, one Korea proved that it can also compete to win medals.

For Jakarta-Palembang 2018, South and North Korea agreed to send teams in women's five-on-five basketball, men's and women's dragon boat racing in canoeing, and rowing. And Korean athletes in those sports combined for one gold, one silver and two bronze medals.

The medals won by a joint Korean team didn't count to either South Korea nor North Korea in the Asian Games medal standings.


(Yonhap)

Instead, they were awarded to "Korea."

This was the first time a unified Korean team won medals at an international multisport competition.

Korea's medal tally was enough to tie for 28th place with Lebanon in the medal standings among 45 participating national Olympic committees at this Asian Games.

The women's dragon boat racing team was the big contributor. It collected the first medal for Korea on Aug. 25 by finishing third in the 200-meter race. It then won gold in the 500m race the next day, and listened to "Arirang," Korea's popular folk song, as the national anthem while standing on top of the podium.

It was an historic moment.

South and North Korea have so far formed joint teams in six international sports competitions -- the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships, 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship, 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championship, 2018 ITTF Korea Open and 2018 Asian Games.

Combined teams won gold medals in the women's team event at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships and in mixed doubles at the 2018 ITTF Korea Open, but the women's dragon boat racing gold at the 18th Asian Games marked the first time Koreas joined forces to win gold at a multisport competition.

The men's dragon boat racing team then followed the women's team by adding bronze in its final event, 1,000m, last Monday.

In rowing, Korea didn't medal, but the partnership and teamwork was worth mentioning.

South and North Korea formed joint rowing teams in the men's lightweight four and eight, as well as the women's lightweight double sculls.

The women's basketball team then took silver Saturday after losing the final 71-65. The team comprised of nine South Korean and three North Koreans only had a couple of weeks training together, but it advanced to the final and won a precious silver. 

Following their impressive performance at the Asian Games, the two Koreas are now looking to use their abilities outside Asia.

Seoul's canoeing body said it is working with the International Canoe Federation to seek North Korea's participation at the world championship in the United States next month.

While Korean athletes were busy competing in the games, officials from the South and North exchanged ideas on forming joint teams in other sports and for other international competitions.

South Korea's Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan proposed to his North Korean counterpart Kim Il-guk that they should also send joint teams to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

If realized, it will be the first time in history that the Koreas have a unified team at the Summer Olympics. South and North Korea had a joint women's hockey team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February.

To make it happen, the South and the North would need to work on the process right after the Asian Games, so that they can have no cumbersome process in confirming entries and preparing for the Olympic qualification. (Yonhap)