N.K. hockey team goalie calls for continued exchanges with S. Korea
SEOUL, Jan. 15 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean member of the unified women's hockey team that South and North Korea formed for last year's PyeongChang Winter Olympics has expressed hope that such cross-border exchanges will lead ultimately to inter-Korean reconciliation and unification, according to a state media outlet.
Ri Pom, 24, who played in goal for the historic inter-Korean team, made the case in a diary piece carried by Meari, one of the North's propaganda media outlets, recalling how the awkwardness players from the two sides felt at their first meeting transformed into a close bond and friendship.
The article, titled "From the diary of a single team girl," came as Pyongyang has been stepping up calls for all-out economic exchanges with South Korea, including leader Kim Jong-un's call for reopening an inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong and resuming a tour program to the North's scenic Mount Kumgang.
Ri said people used to call her "a hockey girl" but now she's called "a single team girl."
"The actual time spent for joint training was very short, but we were able to develop a bond and understand each other in such a short time as if we had known each other (for a long time)," Ri said.
The meaning of the unified team lies not in what medal it won but in that compatriots of the two sides joined hands, she said. If the two Koreas had sought such cooperation a long time ago, they would have already reconciled, she added.
"A pathway is formed where people move. A bond develops if people come and go often," Ri said. "A small trail that athletes of the North and the South created will be expanded into a grand channel of Korean reconciliation and cooperation that nobody can wipe out."
The hockey team was the first all-Korean team at any Olympics, winter or summer.
Sports exchanges have since continued, with the two sides forming joint teams in rowing, canoeing and women's basketball at the Asian Games in Indonesia in August. The sides have also competed as one at international table tennis events.
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