Koreas unite at table tennis worlds

Koreas unite at table tennis worlds

South Korean and North Korean teams pose after deciding to form a unified Korean team for the semifinals at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Sweden on Thursday. Reuters

North and South Korea opted against playing each other at the World Table Tennis Championships on Thursday, deciding instead to field a joint women's team for the semifinals.

The move earned a round of applause from world table tennis officials as the two teams told umpires they did not want to clash in the Thursday morning tie, against a backdrop of inter-Korean reconciliation.

In a statement the International Table Tennis Federation said it had approved the decision for the team to unite for a semifinal on Friday after both sides opted against playing their quarterfinal.

"Instead, both teams requested that they want to form a unified Korean team to compete together in the semifinal, which will be held on Friday at 11:00 am against either Japan or Ukraine," the statement added.

The decision to form a unified team "was a tripartite one between the leaders of the North and South Korean Table Tennis teams and the ITTF."

It said the move earned a "standing ovation" from federation delegates at the championship.

The move was the latest sporting proof of the thaw in relations between the two rival Koreas that began at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February when they marched together at the opening ceremony and fielded a joint women's hockey team.

Last week diplomatic rapprochement broke historic ground when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's visited the south for a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

North and South Korea formed a joint table tennis team once before, at the world championships in Chiba, Japan, in 1991, when they won the women's team title.