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07 May 2018, 12:26 | Rufus Hill
North and South Korea combine teams rather than play each other at table tennis worlds
Having taken another step towards the sporting rapprochement of North and South Korea, the unified Korean women's table tennis team was soundly beaten by Japan at the world championships in Sweden on Friday.
Both teams will share the same bench in a sign of unity and South Korea's world number 12 Suh Hyo-won said: "It's really unbelievable, but now we are a united team".
Though there was no victory to cheer, there was still plenty to celebrate as a unified Korean table tennis team made history and provided another symbolic moment in the continued rapprochement between two countries still technically at war.
Although Kim Song-i, from North Korea, had match points against Kasumi Ishikawa, the Japanese player triumphed 11-4 6-11 11-8 11-13 16-14. But the joint team will now play the victor of a match between Japan and Ukraine in the semifinals.
On Wednesday in Halmstad, female players from the two Koreas played an exhibition doubles match during the launching ceremony of the ITTF Foundation.
The two Korean women's teams were slated to meet in the quarterfinals, but after consulting with the International Table Tennis Federation, the two delegations chose to form a united team, which automatically advanced to the semifinals. "This is an important statement to promote peace between our countries through Table Tennis".
She added "I saw a movie about the united team in 1991".
Ichiro Hoshino, executive director of the Japan Table Tennis Association, said he understood the decision but also expressed confusion. South Korea's standing is 5th while North Korea is down at 22nd.
Weikert said, who added there was no external pressure to combine the Korean teams and the ITTF has informed the International Olympic Committee of the news.
International Table Tennis Federation president Thomas Weikert underlined the significance of the decision.
Talks for joint Korean teams at the Asian Games gained traction last week following the inter-Korean summit.
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