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  • Koreas Agree to Join at Asiad


    (ATR) Basketball diplomacy is coming to Pyongyang as a warm up to sports diplomacy at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Pictures released from the June 18 inter-Korean meetings (Ministry of Unification)
    The latest round of inter-Korean talks in the village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone focused on preparations for the upcoming Asiad along with other projects for cooperation in the border region.

    South Korea’s Unification Ministry confirmed a basketball game on July 4 in Pyongyang, with the pledge for a game in Seoul at a future date. In addition, the two Koreas agreed to march under the unification flag at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the Asian Games, which run from August 18 to September 2.

    The decision on which teams will feature both North and South Korean athletes in Jakarta and Palembang has not been made. The Unification Ministry confirmed the anthem played should a team win will be the traditional Korean song “Arirang,” and the team would compete under the acronym COR.

    Additional talks are needed to sort out the logistics of forming joint teams. In the past, the Olympic Council of Asia hosted talks between the North and South Korean National Olympic Committees and said combined teams could be formed, but no additional qualifying spots would be granted.

    “In order to [organize joint teams] the North and South agreed to consult with the Olympic Council of Asia, as well as the issues posed by the international [federations] of each [sport],” a Unification Ministry statement said.

    According to a report from Yonhap Kim Jong Un brought up the idea of the basketball friendly to South Korean President Moon Jae-In during the inter-Korean summit on April 27. Kim is a noted basketball fan who brought former NBA player Dennis Rodman to Pyongyang multiple times on trips.

    “We will try to materialize the spirit and principles agreed between high-level officials of South and North Korea with the belief that sports can act as a guide for better inter-Korean exchanges," Jeon Choong-ryul, secretary general of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee, told Korean reporters in Seoul. “As we all witnessed during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, sports gave a chance to initiate better inter-Korean relations.”

    Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, told Around the Rings that the outreach of sports diplomacy is a “no-risk venture” for the North Korean regime. These cross-border sport events boost the popularity of North Korea in the South during periods of engagement, Lee added.

    “So far, the PyeongChang Games have been very significant in paving the road for Kim Jong Un's outreach and his image makeover campaign,” Lee said. “Kim would be foolish to pass up on further opportunities for sports diplomacy.”

    The two Korean National Olympic Committees will meet later this week in Lausanne as part of Olympic Day events. Korean athletes will participate in a table tennis demonstration. Earlier this year the women’s South Korean and North Korean table tennis teams combined at the World Championships, the first inter-Korean team formed since 1991.

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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