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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 5)

All News 07:33 April 05, 2017

Sports bridge two Koreas

The cross visits of athletes from the two Koreas are raising hopes that sports can play a role in thawing inter-Korean relations.

Earlier this week, North Korea's women's hockey team arrived at the venue of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Gangwon Province to take part in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women's World Championship. This is the first time for a North Korean sports team to visit Korea since the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.

North Korea lost to Australia 2-1 during a match at the Gangneung Hockey Center, but thanked South Koreans for their passionate support. It was moving to see South Koreans turn out in droves with chants like "We are one" and "Go Korea." A showdown between the two Koreas will take place today.

Our women's football team visited Pyongyang earlier this week for an Asian Cup match Wednesday against India at Kim Il Sung Stadium. This is the first time for the national women's football team to visit Pyongyang in 27 years. They arrived at the North Korean capital via Beijing, Sunday. The last time South Korean athletes visited Pyongyang was for a boys' football tournament in 2015. Regardless of the result, Koreans are hoping that the Pyongyang visit of the women's football team will provide momentum for more active exchanges between the two countries.

There is nothing like sports to bring the two Koreas together. The world is eyeing how the PyeongChang Olympics could impact inter-Korean relations. The North Koreans seemed excited to visit the Olympic venue. Their participation in Korea's first Winter Olympics will be welcomed by all South Koreans.

Former President Park Geun-hye failed to advance inter-Korean relations despite her "unification bonanza" theory. Due to North Korea's multiple provocations, relations between the two Koreas continued to deteriorate before she decided to close the inter-Korean industrial park in Gaeseong in February 2016. The new president should remember that it is crucial to pursue cultural and sports exchanges from a long-term perspective despite the political circumstances.

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