Unified Korean women’s ice hockey team debuts at Olympics to heartfelt cheers

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea — They may have lost in their debut game at the Winter Olympics on Saturday night, but the first-ever joint Korean women’s ice hockey team easily won the crowd.

The team, comprised of 12 players from the North and 23 from the South, has been a highly anticipated feature of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, which is being held just 50 miles from the North Korean border and follows a string of tense moments between the two nations.

But with these Olympics bringing optimism for continued diplomacy and a potential pathway toward lasting peace, the sight of North and South Koreans unifying in the name of sport — even if they were shut out by the Swiss 8-0 — was not lost on those sitting inside the sold-out Kwandong Hockey Center.

Related: How to watch the 2018 Winter Olympics

“I am South Korean, and although our country is divided, I think we are the same people,” said Do Yeon Lee, 14, of Seoul, who traveled to these Olympics just to watch the Korean women play. “It’s like an honor to be here.”

Kim Se Kyoung, a 40-year-old teacher from Seoul, added that “It’s very meaningful and impressive.” Her 95-year-old grandmother was born in North Korea, and she has longed for unification on the Korean Peninsula. (The two Koreas technically remain at war.)

“Her granddaughter and grandson are here,” Kim Se Kyoung said, “and this game is very meaningful for her. … It could be one step for peace in Korea.”




Image:

North Korean supporters cheer before the preliminary round of the women’s hockey game between Switzerland and the combined Koreas at the 2018 Winter Olympics on Feb. 10, 2018.