Koreas' Combined Team Makes Its Debut

The women's hockey team loses 3-1, but no one really seemed that bothered
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 4, 2018 6:37 AM CST
Combined Koreas players celebrate after scoring against Sweden during their women's ice hockey friendly game at Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018.   (Kim Hong-Ji/Pool Photo via AP)
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(Newser) – Wearing a powder-blue logo of a map symbolizing peace between the Koreas, the most talked-about team at this year's Olympics finally saw action Sunday in a friendly that drew thousands in a country that never showed much passion for hockey. The North and South Korean women's hockey players, who only began practicing together a week ago, showed plenty of fight in their first test, crashing the boards and using their bodies to stop pucks and opponents, but never really threatened in a 3-1 loss to No. 5 Sweden. But the outcome didn't seem to matter to the capacity crowd of 3,000, reports the AP. Fans chanted "We are one" while screaming whenever the Koreans got the break. "I don't even care about the results, I just want to cheer for them and see them work together and help each other out on the ice," said one mom of two, calling the team "the most emotionally moving part of the Olympics."

Amid a heavy police presence, hundreds of supporters began gathering outside the stadium hours before the game despite the icy weather, including dozens who danced to music in matching white parkas and hoodies with the peninsula logo and shouted "Win, Korea!" The Korean players stood to the Korean traditional tune of "Arirang," instead of their respective national anthems, and received warm applause after the contest. The Olympics begin Friday. North Korea plans to send hundreds of people to the games, including athletes, officials, artists, and a 230-member cheering group. Surveys show most South Koreans are relieved to see North Korea at the Olympics. Many think the North's presence makes it unlikely that the country will conduct a major missile test or disrupt the games. "If we ever get unified again, these young players of the South and North will be able to look back and be proud that what they did contributed to a historic change," a 33-year-old man says.

(Read more Pyeongchang stories.)

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