The South Asian Times

21 January 2019 02:47 AM

Winter Olympics: N. Korean flagbearer hoping for unification


Gangneung (South Korea), Feb 9: Chosen as the North Korean flagbearer for the joint Korean march at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, female hockey player Hwang Chung-gum said on Friday that she is hoping for unification of the two countries.

The two Koreas marched together behind the Korean Unification Flag -- a blue Korean Peninsula against a white background -- during the opening ceremony at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on Friday, reports Yonhap news agency. 

Under terms set by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), each Korea had one flagbearer during the parade.

Hwang was announced as the North Korean representative, joining South Korean bobsleigh pilot Won Yun-jong.

Hwang is one of the 12 North Korean players on the joint hockey team, alongside 23 South Koreans. After their practice on Friday at Kwandong Hockey Centre -- the team's last one before its opening game against Switzerland on Saturday -- Hwang said she was "pleased" to be a part of the unified team.

"When the North and the South compete as one in the Olympics, I don't think of it just as an athletic competition," Hwang told reporters. 

"I am hoping North and South Korea will be united as early as possible, and I will do everything in my power to contribute to the team's victory."

The Koreas have been divided since 1948. They are also technically at war with one another because the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Their joint march in PyeongChang will be the fourth such occasion at an Olympic Games, and the unified hockey team is the first of its kind in any sports in any Olympics.

Hwang said she was at a loss for words to describe how she feels about being the flagbearer, only saying, "I was chosen because the whole team had faith in me."

Asked if this is an emotional occasion for her, Hwang said, with a sheepish smile, "Yes, it is."

Update: 09 Feb, 2018