Combined Korean team for semi-finals

Suh Hyo Won of South Korea (far right) and Kim Song I of North Korea sharing a light moment after a news conference in Halmstad, Sweden, yesterday.
Suh Hyo Won of South Korea (far right) and Kim Song I of North Korea sharing a light moment after a news conference in Halmstad, Sweden, yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

STOCKHOLM • North and South Korea opted against playing each other at the World Team Table Tennis Championships yesterday, deciding instead to field a joint women's team for the semi-finals.

The move earned a round of applause from world table tennis officials as the two teams told umpires they did not want to clash in yesterday's morning tie, against a backdrop of inter-Korean reconciliation.

In a statement, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) said it had approved the decision for the teams to unite for a semi-final today. They will face Japan, who beat Ukraine 3-0 yesterday.

The decision "was a tripartite one between the leaders of the North and South Korean table tennis teams and the ITTF" and earned a "standing ovation" from federation delegates at the championships.

The move was the latest sporting proof of the thaw in relations between the two rival Koreas that began at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February, when they marched together at the opening ceremony and fielded a combined team in women's ice hockey.

Last week, diplomatic rapprochement broke historic ground when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the south for a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae In.

North and South Korea had formed a joint table tennis team once before, at the World Championships in Chiba, Japan in 1991, when they won the women's team title.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WORLD TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS

Women's s-finals: Singtel TV Ch110, 8.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2018, with the headline 'Combined Korean team for semi-finals'. Print Edition | Subscribe