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N. Korean table tennis team leaves S. Korea after successful tournament

All Headlines 15:07 July 23, 2018

SEOUL, July 23 (Yonhap) -- Members of the North Korean national table tennis team left South Korea on Monday after a successful international tournament last week.

North Korea sent eight male and eight female players to the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour Platinum Korea Open, which wrapped up in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Sunday. The Koreas also fielded four unified teams in the men's and women's doubles, and the mixed doubles. Of those, the mixed doubles duo of Jang Woo-jin (South) and Cha Hyo-sim (North) captured the gold medal. In the men's doubles, Lee Sang-su (South) and Pak Sin-hyok (North) took home a bronze.

North Korea won two additional medals under its own flag. The 19-year-old Ham Yu-song won the under-21 men's singles title, and Cha teamed up with Kim Nae-hae for a bronze in the women's doubles.

Members of the North Korean table tennis team (in white shirts) approach customs at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on July 23, 2018, after competing at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour Platinum Korea Open in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, over the past week. (Yonhap)

This was North Korea's first appearance at the Korea Open, which was contested for the 18th time this year.

The Korean players competed before sellout crowds at Chungmu Sports Arena over the weekend. Impressed with their success on the table and at the gate, ITTF President Thomas Weikert said he had "long-term plans" for unified Korean teams.

Specifically, Weikert said the ITTF and the national table tennis federations for the two Koreas have agreed to field unified mixed doubles teams at the World Tour events in Austria and Sweden in November. They'll try to qualify for the World Tour Grand Finals in South Korea in December.

Weikert also said the ITTF will also push to have the Koreas play as one at the 2020 world championships in South Korea's Busan.

The Koreas last competed together in the doubles in international ping pong at the 1991 world championships in Japan, where they won the women's team gold medal.

At the world team championships in May this year in Sweden, the Koreas brought their women's teams together just before they were to face each other in the quarterfinals. They advanced to the semifinals as one and lost to Japan to settle for bronze. The team competition at the time only consisted of singles matches.

South Korean table tennis legends Hyun Jung-hwa (2nd from R) and Yoo Nam-kyu shake hands with departing North Korean players at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on July 23, 2018. (Yonhap)


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