They’re Two Separate Countries, But You Could See North And South Korea Unite On Ice

“I think that can be a further step in developing South-North relations.”

North Korea and South Korea have agreed to combine their women's hockey teams for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea's own Pyeongchang — sparking hopes that the rivalry between the neighboring countries, heightened by the threat of nuclear war, is possibly abating.

Recommended

South Korea's Unification Ministry in Seoul announced the news, per the Associated Press, saying athletes from both countries will march together in the opening ceremony under a "unification flag" depicting the Korean peninsula. The countries reached the agreement during talks on January 17 in the border village of Panmunjom, the Ministry reported.

If the merger is approved, it would be the first time the two countries have competed as one in an Olympic event, though North and South Korean delegates symbolically marched as one team at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics.

Proponents of this latest plan include 24-year-old Marissa Brandt, a Korean-American athlete playing for South Korea's hockey team. "Just the tension between North and South Korea, it's so high," she told CBS News. "And even just a little, small thing like this — of showing that we can be unified — would just, I hope, go a long way."

But some of Brandt's teammates on the South Korean hockey team were "furious" about the prospect of joining forces with the North Korean team, according to a senior official with the Korea Ice Hockey Association, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity. 

"We are utterly speechless that the government just picked us out of blue and asked us to play with total strangers at the Olympics," the official said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with his country's Olympic athletes recently and told them North Korea's participation in the Olympics "will serve as a chance to warm solidly frozen South-North ties," according to the Associated Press.

"But if we march together or field a single team, I think that can be a further step in developing South-North relations," he added.

However, critics are worried North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is making overtures of unification with South Korea to weaken U.S.-led international sanctions on his country while "buying time to perfect his nuclear weapons program," the AP states.

In any event, the International Olympic Committee must approve the plan to combine the teams. According to the Unification Ministry, North and South Korea are scheduled to meet with the Committee this weekend.

Cover image via Singulyarra / Shutterstock.com

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.