Seoul: The two Koreas will form joint table tennis teams for the 2018 Korea Open next week, a report said Sunday, the latest sign of thawing ties between the neighbours.
North and South Korea will field joint teams in the men’s and women’s doubles as well as the mixed doubles in the tournament to be held in the South’s city of Daejeon from Tuesday to Sunday, Yonhap news agency said.
It cited an unnamed official at the Korea Table Tennis Association.
South Korean TV footage showed North Korean athletes and delegates arriving at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport Sunday via a flight through Beijing.
Eight female and eight male athletes from North Korea — including Kim Song I, a bronze medalist at women’s singles at the 2016 Rio Summer Games — will form the joint teams with the South’s players, Yonhap said.
It will be the third time that table tennis players from the two Koreas form a joint team following the 1991 world championships in Japan and this year’s championships in Sweden.
The joint team in 1991 shocked the world by defeating defending champion China to win gold in the women’s team event. This year’s joint team won bronze in the women’s team event in Sweden.
The Korea Table Tennis Association could not be immediately reached for comment.
The two countries are technically still at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice instead of a peace treaty, but sporting cooperation helped spark an ongoing diplomatic thaw after the North agreed to participate in the Winter Olympics held in February in the South.
The diplomatic detente triggered a rapid improvement in relations between Pyongyang and both Seoul and Washington, culminating in last month’s summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore.
A group of South Korean basketball players visited the North earlier this month to hold friendly basketball matches with its athletes.
The two Koreas also recently announced they would field joint teams in three sports — canoeing, rowing and women’s basketball — at next month’s Asian Games to be held in Indonesia.