Table tennis: Two Koreas won't play each other in world c'ships q-finals, form unified team to face Japan in semis

The two Koreas will field a combined team in the table tennis world championships semi finals after the nations decided not to compete against each other in the quarter-finals.
Song I Kim (left) of North Korea and Hyowon Suh of South Korea pose for media at the Table Tennis Team World Championships in Halmstad, Sweden, on May 3, 2018.
Song I Kim (left) of North Korea and Hyowon Suh of South Korea pose for media at the Table Tennis Team World Championships in Halmstad, Sweden, on May 3, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BENGALURU/STOCKHOLM (REUTERS) - The two Koreas will field a combined team at the table tennis world championships after the nations decided not to compete against each other in the quarter-finals, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) said on Thursday (May 3).

North and South Korea requested to field a unified team for the semi-finals of the championships, which will be played against Japan on Friday in Halmstad, Sweden.

The last time that a unified Korea team played the world table tennis championships was 1991 in Chiba, Japan where the women's team shocked defending champions China to win the gold medal.

The decision to form a unified team was a tripartite agreement between the leaders of the North and South Korean table tennis teams and the ITTF.

"When I informed the board of directors about this development, the unified team received a standing ovation from the delegates who showed their sign of support for this historic move," ITTF president Thomas Weikert said in a statement.

The move follows the North and South Korean leaders' pledge to work for "complete denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula last week.

Japan's Mima Ito said a unified Korea would not necessarily pose a greater challenge to them in the last four.

"It doesn't really matter, we play our own game, we play our own system. We are looking at our own game and not our opponent," she said.

"The other team has five players, so it's the same. We really concentrate on our game - we will do what we want to do. That's what we plan to do."

The two Koreas had earlier this year joined forces to field a combined women's ice hockey team at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games after they marched in together for the opening ceremony.