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S. Korea proposed forming unified teams with N. Korea in 6 or 7 sports at Tokyo 2020

Sport 02.11.2018 | 15:05

SEOUL, 2 Nov. (BelTA - Yonhap) - South Korea asked North Korea to form joint teams in six or seven sports for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics during their sports talks on Friday, a source here said.

The two Koreas had their first sports talks in four months in the North's border town of Kaesong. They agreed to participate together in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games and other international competitions, while cooperating on joint team issues with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the international federations of summer Olympic sports.

According to the source, South Korea's sports ministry surveyed national sports federations through the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC) to find out their thoughts on unified teams before holding inter-Korean sports talks.

The Tokyo Olympics will feature 33 sports. The source said 10 to 11 national federations gave positive answers to the question of possibly forming joint teams with North Korea at Tokyo 2020.

From that list, the ministry and the KSOC picked six to seven sports and suggested those sports to North Korea for unified teams, according to the source.

Sending unified teams to the Tokyo Olympics would be easy if both South and North Korean athletes in those sports had already qualified for the quadrennial event.

However, it was reported that many South Korean sports federations have yet to pick their national team members for Tokyo 2020, while coaches and officials in some sports have yet to confirm their final positions on unified teams.

For these reasons, it was difficult for South Korea to unveil the list of sports for possible joint teams with North Korea, according to the source.

After the sports talks, South Korea's vice sports minister Roh Tae-kang confirmed that the two Koreas have not decided on which sports they intend to have unified teams in.

South Korea has apparently decided not to take the same steps that it went through in assembling the unified Korean women's ice hockey team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February.

In that instance, the two Koreas formed the unified team in women's ice hockey just one month before the Olympic Games. Some criticized that process as unfair, as it involved granting Olympic opportunities to North Koreans that hadn't even attempted to qualify for the competition, while some pointed out that hard-working South Korean athletes could lose playing time because North Koreans were added to the team.

To prevent a reoccurrence of such a situation, the ministry and the KSOC said they'll first check with athletes and sports federations.

"First of all, our athletes who've qualified for the Olympics should not suffer damages if unified teams are to be formed," a KSOC official said. "We also decided to minimize our requests for the IOC or international federations' help. Instead of thinking about the results at the competitions, we will focus on the process of assembling unified teams that will show the two Koreas' efforts moving toward one goal."

The sports ministry and the KSOC said that they'll take follow-up measures after receiving answers from North Korea on unified teams.

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