(ATTN: ADDS background, details in paras 5, 9-15)
SEOUL, June 28 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea have agreed to field joint teams in three sports and six events at this year's Asian Games in Indonesia, the continent's top sports body said Thursday.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said the Koreas will compete as one in basketball, dragon boat racing and rowing. The OCA made the announcement following a four-party meeting it hosted involving the two Koreas' respective Olympic bodies and the organizing committee of the Asian Games in Jakarta on Thursday.
The 18th Asian Games will be co-hosted by Jakarta and Palembang from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2.
There will be a unified team in the women's five-on-five basketball; men's and women's dragon boat, a canoe discipline; and lightweight men's four, lightweight men's eight and lightweight women's double sculls events in rowing.
Basketball will be played at Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex in Jakarta. All canoeing and rowing races will take place at Jakabaring Lake in Palembang.
The OCA had previously said it would support joint Korean participation but insisted there would be no extra places for athletes from either Korea on unified teams. It reiterated that stance on Thursday, saying, "The size of the joint teams will not exceed the athlete quota that applies to all other national Olympic committees (NOCs)."
Otherwise, the OCA welcomed joint Korean participation. The two assembled a joint women's hockey team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February this year -- the first unified Korean team in Olympic history -- but they have never competed as one at any Asian Games.
"This will be an historic Asian Games for the OCA and for the continent because it will be the first time that North Korea and South Korea will form a unified team in certain sports," said Vinod Kumar Tiwari, the OCA's director of international and NOC relations. "They have marched together before in the opening ceremony, and we are delighted that they are extending their joint cooperation further in the spirit of unity and friendship."
The Koreas have previously had joint teams at world championships for table tennis and youth football. The women's hockey team at PyeongChang 2018 was the first joint Korean team at any international multi-sport competition.
Talks on fielding multiple joint teams at this year's Asian Games gained traction after the inter-Korean summit on April 27. A joint declaration issued by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stated that they "agreed to demonstrate their collective wisdom, talents and solidarity by jointly participating in international sports events, such as the 2018 Asian Games."
In an informal poll conducted by the South Korean sports ministry of the national sports federations, the governing bodies for table tennis, basketball, judo, gymnastics, soft tennis, canoe and rowing expressed interest in fielding joint teams with North Korea.
In early May, the Koreas teamed up to win bronze in the women's competition at the World Team Table Tennis Championship in Sweden. That victory further fueled hopes that table tennis would be one of the sports in which a joint Korean team will be put together at the Asian Games, but the OCA later balked at the idea of granting extra entries for the Koreas.
The South Korean table tennis federation had been hoping to bring the two national teams together without cutting anyone from either side.
The canoe federation in Seoul has been the most aggressive in pushing for the joint team. It has already announced plans to hold joint training sessions on both sides of the border prior to the Asian Games. The canoe body here has said dragon boat racing was the most logical choice for a unified Korean team because both sides could select their athletes from scratch and they wouldn't have to leave anyone off just to assemble the joint team.
Kim Jong-un is known as a big fan of basketball. The Koreas will play exhibition games in Pyongyang next week, and Seoul will host reciprocal games later in the year.
Although the final deadline for the NOCs to submit their entries is June 30, the deadline for the joint teams will be extended to July 10, the OCA added.
The Koreas have already agreed to march in together behind the Korean Unification Flag at the opening ceremony in Jakarta. On Thursday, the OCA said the joint delegation at the opening ceremony will feature 100 athletes and officials from each of the Koreas.
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