Sport Fans flock to cheer joint Korean ice hockey team

21:30  04 february  2018
21:30  04 february  2018 Source:   Reuters

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INCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) - South Korean fans chanting, “We are one” and wearing shirts with the unification flag emblazoned on the front packed into a freezing ice hockey arena on Sunday to cheer on the joint Korean women’s team in a tune-up for this month’s Winter Olympics.

By Hyunjoo Jin. INCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) – South Korean fans chanting, “We are one” and wearing shirts with the unification flag emblazoned on the front packed into a freezing ice hockey arena on Sunday to cheer on the joint Korean women’s team in a tune-up for this month’s Winter Olympics.

Ice Hockey - Friendly - Inter-Korea v Sweden© REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji Ice Hockey - Friendly - Inter-Korea v Sweden

South Korean fans chanting, "We are one" and wearing shirts with the unification flag emblazoned on the front packed into a freezing ice hockey arena on Sunday to cheer on the joint Korean women's team in a tune-up for this month's Winter Olympics.

North and South Korea agreed last month to field a combined women's ice hockey team and march together under one flag in Pyeongchang after a new round of talks amid a thaw in cross-border relations.

With some 3,000 fans packed into Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon, the Koreans, who have only practiced together for a week, lost 3-1 to Sweden.

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INCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) - South Korean fans chanting, “We are one” and wearing shirts with the unification flag emblazoned on the front packed into a freezing ice hockey arena on Sunday to cheer on the joint Korean women’s team in a tune-up for this month’s Winter Olympics.

South Korean fans packed into a freezing ice hockey arena on Sunday to cheer on the joint Korean women's team in a tune-up for this month's Winter Olympics.

While the result was a disappointment, hopes are high that the unified team could help improve ties.

"I am excited," said Park Cheol-hyun, who came to watch the game with his wife and son.

"Even though the nuclear issue may not be resolved immediately, it will be good for the longer term if the two Koreas get closer. Otherwise, there is no way to resolve it."

While the reaction to the North's decision to participate in the Winter Games was met warmly in the South, the decision to form a combined women’s ice hockey team sparked a public backlash.

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Korean fans chanting, "We are one" and wearing shirts with the unification flag emblazoned on the front packed into an ice hockey arena to cheer on the joint Korean women's team in a tune-up for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

The International Olympic Committee [IOC] is willing to consider ideas that include a joint women's ice hockey team featuring players from North and South Korea at next A North Korean cheering squad and taekwondo demonstration team is set to be sent to the Games, while a joint cultural event prior

Critics said adding North Korean players to the South's roster at the last minute would mean missed opportunities for home players and could hurt team chemistry.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: South Korean supporters hold the unification flags as they cheer inter-Korean women's ice hockey athletes before their friendly match against Sweden in Incheon© REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji South Korean supporters hold the unification flags as they cheer inter-Korean women's ice hockey athletes before their friendly match against Sweden in Incheon "As a coach, it is hard to tell some of your players that you have been with for a quite a long time that they are not going be able to play, but the whole situation is out of our control. So we are trying to make the best out of it,” Sarah Murray, the head coach of the team, told a news conference after the game.

"There are a lot of challenges with adding players so close to the Olympics," she said, adding that the language barrier was a real problem.

"The meeting takes three times as long. It's really hard when you have three different languages on one team,” the Canadian said.

North Korea's first Olympic competitor flops

  North Korea's first Olympic competitor flops North Korea's first competitor at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic got a big cheer at short-track speed skating Saturday but failed to qualify for a shot at the gold medal. Cheerleaders from North Korea let rip in support for Choe Un Song but he was eliminated in the 1,500m heats and the 25-year-old failed to qualify for the semi-finals.South Korean President Moon Jae-in and United States Vice-President Mike Pence turned up at the Gangneung Ice Arena to see the evening's race programme watched also by around 100 North Korean cheerleaders, all dressed in red.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is willing to consider ideas that include a joint women's ice hockey team featuring players from North and South Korea at next A North Korean cheering squad and taekwondo demonstration team is set to be sent to the Games, while a joint cultural event prior

North and South Korea will march beneath a single “unified Korea ” flag and field a joint women's ice hockey team at next month's Winter Olympics, Reuters reported. RELATED: US Dismisses Diplomatic Overtures Between Korean People.

Both sets of players speak Korean, but the language has evolved differently in the North and South.

"CLOSER TO PEACE"

The International Olympic Committee said 12 North Korea players would join the South's 23-player squad. The game day roster will continue to be 22 and the team has to include at least three North Koreans.

The North will also send athletes to take part in figure skating, short track speed skating, cross-country and Alpine skiing at the Feb. 9-25 Games.

a group of men racing down a snow covered slope: Ice Hockey - Friendly - Inter-Korea v Sweden© REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji Ice Hockey - Friendly - Inter-Korea v Sweden The controversy has hit the popularity of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who hoped that the upcoming Olympics would pave the way for a breakthrough in resolving North Korea's nuclear issue.

“I think young people have hostility about the North because they only heard bad things about North Korea for the past nine years," said 19-year-old Chae Hyun-min, who was waiting in line to enter the stadium in freezing cold weather.

"This is the first step, and will bring the two Koreas one step closer to peace. The perceptions of young people will change gradually," he said.

Ahead of the game, conservative groups held protests and tore up a North Korean flag. They called for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to step down.

“The unified team is politically contaminated," 58-year-old Cho Young-hwan said, calling Moon "the puppet” of the North Korean leader.

"The Olympics offered an opportunity for the North to publicise its propaganda and create a conflict within South Korea.

"In this situation, how can the two Koreas be unified?" asked Cho, who is from Gangwon Province where the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games will be staged.

The North Korean Olympic cheerleaders have gone viral .
<p>North Korean cheerleaders have taken the Winter Olympics by storm thanks to their choreographed routines.</p>The 75-strong group, which have been dubbed "the army of beauties", sing their own songs in unison from the stands complete with actions.

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