07 May, 2018
In an extremely unusual move, the women's table tennis teams for North and South Korea decided on Thursday to form a joint team ahead of their quarterfinal match at the world championships, allowing them to skip the match and advance directly to the semifinals.
Taking the opportunity to promote peace between the two nations, they made a decision to form a unified team and take on Japan. 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.
North and South Korea joined forces on Thursday rather than play against each other in the quarter-finals.
The combined team will now fight against either Japan or Ukraine in the final four. The KTTA has also proposed a unified Korean team at this year's Asian Games in Indonesia, pending the ITTF's approval.
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In the height of the Cold War, a set of ping-pong players became the very first Americans to see Communist China, a event which is usually blamed for thawing connections between two countries that had at that time been in touch for 22 decades. It follows the significant meeting between the North's leader Kim Jong-un and South Korea's Moon Jae-in last week where the leaders agreed to work towards "lasting peace". "The ITTF's motto is 'Solidarity Through Table Tennis.' And I think the combined team fits that vision".
Al Mohannadi said in a press statement yesterday that the Qatar Football Federation took this step in 2011 during the Sports and Peace Championship, in which the two Koreas met together, India with Pakistan and America with Russia, and was a great success.
The original "pingpong diplomacy" was between the United States and China in the early 1970s, leading to President Richard Nixon's breakthrough visit in 1972. It is thanks to the IOC that North Korea is participating here in Halmstad, due to their Olympic Solidarity support.
At the Winter Olympics in February, the Koreans had fielded a joint women's hockey team and had also walked under a unified flag in the opening ceremony.