North Korea, South Korea discuss joint teams at Asian Games

North Korea, South Korea discuss joint teams at Asian Games
PHOTO: Reuters

The two Koreas on Monday discussed forming unified teams for the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia to extend the burgeoning diplomacy on the peninsula that took off at the Winter Olympics.

At their historic summit in April, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in had agreed to joint participation in "international sports events such as the 2018 Asian Games".

On the agenda for the meeting Monday are proposals for a joint march and unified teams for the Asian Games, said Jeon Choong-ryul, South Korea's chief delegate.

The games will be held in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.

Officials will also discuss details of an inter-Korean basketball match, which was proposed by Kim at his summit with Moon.

"As witnessed at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, everyone knows that sports triggered the reconciliation between the South and North," Jeon said before departing for the meeting.

The two Koreas formed their first-ever unified Olympic team -- a joint women's ice hockey squad -- for the 2018 Winter Games.

Meet the 200-strong 'army of beauties' from North Korea

  • Open gallery

    After 10 days at the PyeongChang games, the 229 cheerleaders and 22 athletes are heading home.

  • Open gallery

    A total of 299 North Koreans crossed the inter-Korean border at 12:38 pm on Feb 26. after going through the customs, immigration and quarantine office in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on the southern side of the border.

  • Open gallery

    The cheerleaders -- who captured the eyes and hearts of the Olympic audience after making their first cross-border trip in 13 years -- also left the South.

  • Open gallery

    They rooted mostly for the joint hockey team throughout their South Korean trip, which lasted a total of 19 days.

  • Open gallery

    A cheerleader expressed her hope for a unified Korea saying that the Olympics was an opportunity that showed inter-Korean co-operation was the answer to unification.

  • Open gallery

    "I thought that the two Koreas could be unified as soon as possible, as we are one," another cheerleader said. "I was so happy as I could cheer for the unified team."

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    More than 200 sharply dressed North Korean cheerleaders decked out in expensive fur smiled and posed for the media and onlookers on Wednesday (Feb 7) after arriving in South Korea for the Pyeongchang Olympics.

  • Open gallery

    The 229 chic young women wore tailored knee-lenth scarlet coats with fur hats, fur collars, and matching cuffs to ward off the winter chill.

  • Open gallery

    They were immediately whisked away in a convoy to their hotel in Inje county, a small rural town located 120 kilometres from the Games venue in Pyeongchang.

  • Open gallery

    The young women were given a quick bathroom break at a rest area in Gapyeong, located about halfway to their hotel destination.

  • Open gallery

    The women were part of a 280-member delegation who crossed the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas at a border post north of Seoul.

  • Open gallery

    They strutted past South Koreans onlookers, who snapped out their smartphones for photos of the rare sight.

  • Open gallery

    "I am happy to see you," said one cheerleader, beaming broadly but refusing to disclose their cheerleading routine.

  • Open gallery

    "You just wait. If I tell you now, it would be less exciting when you see it."

  • Open gallery

    The cheerleaders are reportedly the product of a careful selection process in North Korea.

  • Open gallery

    They are screened for their family backgrounds, looks, skills and loyalty to the ruling Workers' Party.

  • Open gallery

    The North has sent cheer squads to three international sports events hosted by the South - the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, the 2003 Summer Universiade in Daegu and the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon.

  • Open gallery

    One of those in the 2005 group, Ri Sol Ju, went on to become the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

  • Open gallery

    "I don't want to say it but North Korea's cheering squad is quite pretty. You can throw stones at me but the truth is the truth," said another observer on Twitter.

  • Open gallery

    "I think they are very pretty," said a South Korean onlooker.

  • Open gallery

    At a dinner banquet hosted by South Korea, the cheerleaders - in matching bright red two-piece jackets and skirts complete with Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lapel pins - were seen chatting among themselves at round tables.

  • Open gallery

    The guests were served grilled scallops, shrimp wrapped in pickled radish, barbequed beef, beef stew, fruit and beer.

  • Open gallery

    "A new era of reconcialiation has been opened," said a North Korean delegate leading the cheer squads, referring to a thaw in North and South Korean relations ahed of the Games.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    With only 10 North Korean athletes competing for their country at the Games, and another 12 on the roster of a unified Korean women's ice hockey team, the cheerleaders will reportedly support South Korean athletes when none of their own are in action.

  • Open gallery

    "By the way, I love the North Korean cheering squad's outfit. It's quite something! I want that hat!" said one South Korea fan on Twitter.

  • Open gallery

    For the cheering squad, this trip marks its first appearance in 13 years at a South Korea-hosted international sporting event.

  • Open gallery

    Some cheerleaders nodded and smiled when press asked whether they were all from Pyongyang, and replied they were from different age groups when questioned as to how old they are.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

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.

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.