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Where EAST meets the Northwest

COMBINED KOREAS CREW. Members of the combined Koreas team, top, celebrate after winning the women’s 500-meter dragon boat race at the 18th Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia. (Kim Ju-hyung/Yonhap via AP)

From The Asian Reporter, V28, #17 (September 3, 2018), page 9.

Combined Koreas crew upgrades to gold

By John Pye

AP Sports Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A day after delivering a historic first medal for a combined Koreas team, the women’s dragon boat crew upgraded to gold at the Asian Games.

The crew comprising South Koreans and North Koreans won the 500-meter dragon boat final at Palembang, which is co-hosting the Asian Games with Jakarta.

A Koreas crew won the bronze in the 200-meter final on Saturday, and celebrated by joining together to sing a popular folk song "Arirang."

At the medal ceremony on Sunday, the "unification" flag was raised into the top position with the adopted anthem played during the medal presentations at a major multi-sports international event for the first time.

South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted Kim Kwang Chol, a North Korean coach of the traditional canoe team, as saying he "felt the strength of a unified nation when we came together, dedicated our minds to a single purpose, and paddled the boat forward."

Rather than being added to the tally of either nation, the gold was awarded to Korea — the name given to the combined teams that are entered in rowing, canoeing, and women’s basketball.

The Koreas, still technically at war after their 1950-1953 conflict ended in an armistice, fielded 60 athletes in combined teams in the three sports along with larger contingents for their respective national squads.

Athletes from both countries paraded into the opening ceremony together behind the "unification" flag, which features the outline of the peninsula in blue on a white background. It took a week to reap the medals, a big achievement considering the joint canoe crews only had three weeks to prepare for the games.

In the 500, the Koreans finished the six-team final in two minutes, 24.788 seconds to hold off China and Thailand.

South and North Korea have entered joint teams in previous international events, starting with the 1991 table tennis world championships, and more recently at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The women’s ice hockey team at the Olympics had huge support despite losing all of its games, and inspired more cooperation.

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