The unified Korean dragon boat racing team members sing a song when they feel exhausted, but when the competition is over, they hope they can listen to it.
"Arirang," a folk song that is popular in both South and North Korea, is serving as an energizer for the unified team, the South's drummer Lee Hyeon-joo said Wednesday as the canoeists began their training in Palembang, Indonesia, for the 18th Asian Games.
South Korea and North Korea are sending joint teams in women's basketball, rowing and canoeing at this year's Asian Games. Among the canoeing disciplines, the Koreas decided to compete together in dragon boat racing.
According to Lee, the Korean canoeists get their energy by singing "Arirang" when they feel tired.
In dragon boat racing, the 10 paddlers need to be of the same gender, but teams can pick any steersperson and drummer. Lee, 16, is the youngest person and the only woman on the men's team.
"We sing 'Arirang' when our mental strength gets weak and just before we measure an important record," she said to reporters at Jakabaring Sport City in Palembang, Indonesia, the co-host city of the Asian Games with Jakarta. "I wasn't sure whether North Korean athletes would sing this song, but I was surprised when they sang the song right after me."
But for Korean canoeists, what they really want to do is listen to "Arirang" on the podium. "Arirang" will be played as the national anthem for the unified Korean team if it claims a medal.
"We'll all hug and cry if we hear 'Arirang' here," she said. "We're all determined to hear and sing 'Arirang.'"
The dragon boat racing team arrived in Palembang on Tuesday. When asked about their readiness, Lee said everyone was set to go.
"I thought I would feel some big pressure, but actually I feel good right now," she said. "Maybe because we've trained a lot for this Asian Games. I really wanted to compete."
North Korean canoeist Do Myong-suk, who will compete for the women's team, said the teamwork between the two Koreas is going well.
"We're all Koreans, so we understand each other," she said. "Everything has been going well." (Yonhap)