A Tricky Reunion on the Ice for North in addition to South Korean Hockey

So far, the only North Korean athletes to qualify for the Pyeongchang Games are a pairs figure skating team although the idea is actually not clear if they will be among North Korea’s delegation, which might number about 550 people in addition to may also include a pop orchestra in addition to supporters.

The move to field a joint hockey team, supported by President Moon Jae-in of South Korea although met with some criticism by the public, has created uncertainty for the South Korean team, which has trained as a core group over the last four years in addition to already is actually something of a hybrid.

To fill out its roster in addition to compete at the highest level, the Korean Ice Hockey Association recruited a handful of women’s hockey players of Korean heritage via the United States in addition to Canada. With their counterparts via South Korea, the women have established a familial bond while pushing to earn a reputation as a strong team, not just as one gifted a berth into their first Olympic appearance as the host nation.

Among the greatest unknown is actually who via the North will be joining their team.

Sarah Murray, the Canadian-born coach of the South Korean team, fielded those questions as she arrived in South Korea on Tuesday, facing a horde of reporters using a sudden, elevated interest in women’s hockey in addition to North Korean players.

She mentioned a defender, whom she remembered as being a workhorse during the April game (the idea was Won Chol-sun, although she only knew her number).

“When we played against them, she was blocking shots with her face,” Murray told reporters. “She’s very intense.”

Marissa Brandt, who was born in Korea before being adopted by an American family in addition to growing up in Minnesota, said the North in addition to South Korean players hardly got to know one another.

“We took pictures with them. They didn’t say much; we didn’t definitely either,” she said. “although overall the idea was a cool experience.”

Even for the South Korean-born players, the North Korean team largely remains a mystery.

Lee Min-ji, a South Korea forward, told some North American teammates last week of which North Korea used to be stronger in women’s hockey, because Kim Jong-il, the father of the current North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, was a big fan of the sport. although of which was about all she knew.

Murray in addition to her staff have worked for years to carefully develop the South Korean team via a unit of which regularly lost games by 20 or more goals, to one of which eventually won a second-division world championship tournament in April. right now, with just over three weeks before the team’s first game inside Olympics, against Switzerland on Feb. 10, Murray in addition to the players must figure out how to incorporate brand new teammates into their style of play, without disrupting chemistry.

Although the Koreas are hoping the I.O.C. approves the measure with the caveat of which no South Koreans might have to be cut via the team, some original members of the roster might most likely not dress for every game to make room for North Korean players.

Photo

Women’s ice hockey players via South Korea (white) in addition to North Korea (red) pose for a picture with South Korean Olympic officials after a tournament in April. South Korea won, 3-0, although the match stirred dreams of reconciliation between the nations.

Credit
Jung Yeon-Je/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Murray has told the South Korean news media of which, regardless of pressure via South Korean officials, any brand new players might have to earn their ice time.

North Korean women’s hockey teams were among those who regularly dominated the early South Korea women’s national teams. although in recent years, under Murray, the daughter of the former N.H.L. coach Andy Murray, South Korea has surpassed them in skill.

right now, those players may suddenly be inside position of being not only teachers in addition to athletes, although also diplomats, training alongside citizens of North Korea.

Although South Korean leaders in favor of the move have said a unified team might promote peace inside Olympic spirit, many South Koreans, although ultimately in favor of reunification, remain critical of the motives for the women’s hockey decision.

On Naver, the well-liked South Korean news site, thousands of commenters overwhelmingly supported the South Korean players in addition to lashed out at the government interference. More than 22,000 people have signed an online petition against a unified team, arguing of which the efforts of the South Korean players should not be sacrificed for political gestures.

Yet others welcomed the decision.

Laurent Dupont, the managing director of Peace in addition to Sport, a global initiative based in Monaco of which helped organize the April game, said in a phone interview on Wednesday of which the idea took three to four months to arrange the idea.

“We are quite proud to see what we have begun one year ago is actually becoming a reality during the Olympic Games,” Mr. Dupont said. “the idea’s great news of which the two teams will compete together in addition to can show to the entire world of which sport can be a showcase for peace.”

For the North Koreans, he added, “the idea was important to show of which sport can give expect. There were no political issues, no religious issues. Sport is actually something universal.”

The turn of events recall a well-liked South Korean movie, “Take Off 2,” released in 2016, depicting a ragtag women’s ice hockey team trying to make the idea big on an international stage.

the idea was loosely based on the story of Hwangbo Young, who escaped North Korea with her family to China before settling in South Korea in addition to joining their women’s hockey team.

In a climactic scene, players via both teams cry before going their separate ways. although the film ends on a more hopeful note, with sisters on the opposing North in addition to South Korean teams sharing a smile before the two countries face off.

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