Koreas may send joint dragon boat team to Asiad

SEOUL • South Korea's canoe federation said yesterday it has proposed forming a joint dragon boat team with North Korea, after the two nations agreed to compete together in some Asian Games events in a fresh show of rapprochement.

Officials from North and South Korea said on Monday they would form joint teams for certain sports at the Asiad in Jakarta and Palembang from Aug 18-Sept 2.

The move follows up an agreement between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at their summit in April.

The Korean Canoe Federation said it was in the final stages of preparing for a joint team in the dragon boat race, one of three canoe disciplines at the event.

"We expect to receive an answer from North Korea by early next month," federation president Kim Yong Bin told reporters.

A delegation from the International Canoe Federation is due to travel to the North Korean capital next month and Kim said joint training could take place in Seoul in the middle of next month.

The Olympic Council of Asia earlier dismissed the idea of granting extra places for unified Korean teams at the Asian Games, clouding the prospects of forming such teams in many sports.

The first unified Olympic team was a joint women's ice hockey squad for the Pyeongchang Games in February, and there was criticism in Seoul that some South Koreans were being pushed out.

Kim said neither country had full-time dragon boat paddlers and thus a joint team would not displace established athletes. It could also boost their medal chances.

"North Korea has strong female paddlers," Kim said. "If they compete in the dragon boat race, we could be a gold-medal contender."

If the team are successful, a joint team would also compete at the world championships in the United States in September, Kim added, which would send a "tremendous message of peace".

The rapprochement began in February when Kim Jong Un sent athletes, cheerleaders and his sister Kim Yo Jong as an envoy to the Winter Games in the South Korean alpine resort.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2018, with the headline 'Koreas may send joint dragon boat team to Asiad'. Print Edition | Subscribe