It was the most highly anticipated hockey match in the nation’s history – the first time an ‘All Korean’ team had competed in an international event.
Made up of players from the pariah communist North and the Olympic-host South, the women of the ‘unified’ team took their places in the record books as they stepped out on to the ice today.
The rink roared as the All Korea team took to the ice. Glamorous North Korean cheer-leaders packed the front row of the stand and chanted in unison as the game against firm favourites Switzerland began.
They shouted: ‘Win, win, our players win!’
Families with children filled the other seats, with kids waving ‘All Korea’ flags and bursting into raptures whenever the ‘national’ team took possession of the puck.
Unfortunately for the team, Switzerland beat them 8-0.
The ‘All Korea’ ice hockey team took to the ice for the first time today during a preliminary match against Switzerland
Unfortunately for the All Korea team, Switzerland were the first to score in their preliminary match
With little experience of playing together and some confusion in their language they are unlikely to win the gold
Cheerleaders for North Korea are said to have been selected for their duty, youth and enthusiasm by Kim Jong–Un himself. They shouted ‘win, win, our players win’
The North Korean-sponsored cheerleaders refused to give up hope even when the united country team went down goal after goal.
They chanted: ‘Cheer up! Have strength!’
After the match Korea supporters continued to chant ‘we are one’ and unveiled a banner with the slogan which also bore the All Korea flag.
With little experience of playing together and some confusion in their language they are unlikely to win the gold.
But after the barn-storming call for peace and unity at the Pyeongchang Olympics opening ceremony, they are symbols of the ‘ice diplomacy’ that South Korea hopes will characterize these Games.
While Olympic organisers have tried to separate politics from sport over the years, the team has been put together under the ‘All Korea’ flag between the rival states to promote peace and reconciliation.
South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in has invited North Korea’s ceremonial leader Kim Yong-nam to watch the match together, following a landmark meeting.
Kim Jong-Un’s influential sister Kim Yo-jong, who made a surprise appearance at the Olympic opening ceremony, may also come along.
Kim Jong-Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong watched the match with North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam (pictured)
North and South Korea formed the ‘all Korean’ team at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang this year for the first time this year (pictured: Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong waving behind South Korean president Moon Jae-in at the opening ceremony yesterday)
South Korea’s president has invited North Korea’s ceremonial leader Kim Yong-nam to watch the match together (Pictured: The unified Korean flag)
In return North Korea’s dear leader today invited President Moon to talks in Pyongyang, in a hand-written leader delivered by his sister. This would be the first summit between the two Koreas in over a decade.
The despot’s fanatical cheerleaders were expected to make a noisy appearance at the hockey match.
Dressed in matching bright red coats, the young women in their 20s are said to have been selected for their duty, youth and enthusiasm by Kim Jong–Un himself.
Kim Yo-jung, the North Korean leader’s sister, sat with the South Korean president, in the stand to watch the match.
The powerful pair watched intently throughout the game – rising from their seats when it appeared the All Korean team had a chance on goal.
Whatever the result the All Korea v Switzerland match at the Gwandong Hockey Centre in the coastal city of Gangneung will be a sell-out – with millions watching the prime-time games both north and south, as well as around the world.
‘Our team being put together was a political statement but now that the team is together we are just one team,’ said Canadian head coach Sarah Murray.
After the match Korea supporters continued to chant ‘we are one’ and waved unified Korean flags
The North Korean-sponsored cheerleaders refused to give up hope even when the united country team went down goal after goal
Head coach Sarah Murray said: ‘Our team being put together was a political statement but now that the team is together we are just one team’ (Pictured: Unified Korea’s flagbearers leading the delegation during the opening ceremony)
‘Now it is hockey and we are here to compete. It is not an issue for our team.’
The two Koreas were given special permission by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to put together a 35-player two state squad, which is made up of 23 South Koreans and 12 North Koreans. However, the 22-match team must include at least three North Koreans.
While the ‘All Korea’ team lack match practice, they have developed close chemistry and solidarity, coach Sarah Murray claims.
She said: ‘When I heard they were joining our team, I thought worst-case scenario, we are going to be separate, out players are not going to talk.
‘[But] the chemistry is better than I could have expected.’
However the different squads use different words for the most basic commands in hockey – pass and shoot. Players from the South use the English words, while the Northerners use Korean.
Despite the 8-0 loss North Korea’s cheerleaders kept shouting and cheering the team on
The different squads even use different words for the most basic commands in hockey – pass and shoot. Players from the South use the English words, while the Northerners use Korean
While the ‘All Korea’ team lack match practice, they have developed close chemistry and solidarity, coach Sarah Murray claims
While little is known about the backgrounds of the North Korean players, Jong Su-Hyon, who wears number 27, carried the Olympic flame with South Korea’s Park Jongah, number 9, at the opening ceremony, and All Korea flag bears Hwang Chung-Gum, number 39.
The 12 North Korean members of the squad are: number 4 Kim Un-Hyang, 14, Ryo Song-Hui, 18 Kim Un-Jong, 25 Ri Pom, 26 Kim Hyang-Mi, 27 Jong Su-Hong, 32 Choe Un-Gyong, 39 Hwang Chung Gum, 41 Hwang Sol-Hyong, 42 Ryu Su-Jong, and 47 Choe Jong-Hui.
For their part the Southern members include three naturalized Korean – Pak Caroline-Nancy, Im Danelle and Griffin Randi-Heesoo – all of who were invited to take up citizenship after being offered a place in the national hockey squad.
Another player Park Yoonjung aka Marissa Brandt was adopted by an American family aged just four months old. She is the sister of US national hockey player Hannah Brandt.
Coach Sarah Murray has two assistants, South Korean Kim Doyun and North Korean Pak Choi-Ho – as well as Rebecca Baker from the USA.