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(2nd LD) N. Korean athletes to arrive in S. Korea on Saturday for Asiad training

All Headlines 18:58 July 25, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with composition of rowing team at bottom)

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korean athletes set to compete on unified teams with South Koreans at the upcoming Asian Games will cross the border Saturday for joint training, Seoul officials said.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman for the unification ministry, said a delegation of 34 will fly to the South via Beijing on Saturday. Baik said the North Korean delegation is made up of 18 in canoe, eight in rowing, four in women's basketball -- one of them a coach -- and four members of the support staff.

The Korea Canoe Federation (KCF) said earlier in the day that the North Korean paddlers will begin working out with South Koreans at Chungju Tangeum Lake International Rowing Center in Chungju, about 150 kilometers south of Seoul, on Sunday.

The Koreas have agreed to assemble joint teams in dragon boat racing, women's basketball and rowing for the Aug. 18-Sept. 2 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia.

South Korean paddlers in dragon boat racing practice at Chungju Tangeum Lake International Rowing Center in Chungju, about 150 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 23, 2018. They will be on the same team with North Korean athletes at the Aug. 18-Sept. 2 Asian Games in Indonesia. (Yonhap)

Before this year, the Koreas had joint teams at world championships for table tennis and youth football, both in 1991. In the first seven months of this year alone, the Koreas competed as one in women's hockey at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February -- the first joint Korean team at any international multisport competition -- and joined forces in table tennis at the world team championships in May and at the Korea Open tournament last week in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul.

Talks on fielding multiple joint teams at the 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."

The KCF was one of the first South Korean sports federations to express interest in a joint team with North Korea at the Asian Games. The South's dragon boat racing paddlers have been training since June.

In this Joint Press Corps photo from July 4, 2018, Lim Yung-hui of South Korea (L) and Ro Suk-yong of North Korea hold hands after their friendly basketball game at Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium in Pyongyang. (Yonhap)

In women's hockey at PyeongChang 2018, where 12 North Koreans joined 23 South Koreans, some incumbent South Korean players had to be benched for a few games and only saw limited action to make room for North Koreans. The KCF has noted that the unified dragon boat team won't come at the expense of any current South Korean athletes because neither of the Koreas has any full-time dragon boat paddlers and the joint team will be formed from scratch.

The dragon boat racing will feature six South Korean and six North Korean athletes each in the men's and women's competitions.

In women's basketball, three North Koreans -- center Ro Suk-yong, guard Jang Mi-gyong and guard Kim Hye-yon -- were named to the unified team, which will have nine South Koreans, on July 17. South Korea is the defending Asian Games champion.

Ro, Jang and Kim all played in the inter-Korean friendly matches in Pyongyang earlier this month. The two Koreas swapped players on July 4 and then played against each other the following day.

In that head-to-head meeting on July 5, Ro scored a game-high 32 points in South Korea's 81-74 victory. The 181-centimeter center averaged 20.2 points per game to lead all scorers at the 2017 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Women's Asia Cup.

The South Korean team is currently in Taiwan for an international tournament called the William Jones Cup and will return next Monday. The three North Korea players will be working out on their own at Jincheon Training Center in Jincheon, 90 kilometers south of Seoul, until the South Koreans resume their training on Aug. 1.

In rowing, the Koreas will compete as one in the lightweight men's four, lightweight men's eight and lightweight women's double sculls events.

The Korean Rowing Association (KRA) in Seoul announced a list of eight South Korean rowers who will team up with seven North Korean partners. There will be one South Korean coach and two North Korean coaches.

In the lightweight men's four, two South Koreans, Kim Soo-min and Park Tae-hyun, will team up with two North Koreans.

The lightweight men's eight will feature nine South Koreans. In the women's double sculls, Song Ji-sun of the South will partner with one North Korean rower.

The KRA said the schedule for joint training with the North Koreans hasn't been determined but said the rowers will be at Chungju's Tangeum Lake International Rowing Center, along with the dragon boat teams.

The KRA also said it'll seek to assemble joint Korean teams at future competitions, including the 2019 Asian Rowing Championships and 2020 Summer Olympics.

South Korean dragon boat paddlers prepare for their practice at Chungju Tangeum Lake International Rowing Center in Chungju, about 150 kilometers south of Seoul, on July 23, 2018. They will be on the same team with North Korean athletes at the Aug. 18-Sept. 2 Asian Games in Indonesia. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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