Sports can unite North and South, report says

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Sports can unite North and South, report says

Inter-Korean cooperation in sports may play a bigger role in breaking the current deadlock on the Korean Peninsula, stemming from a recent series of missile launches and nuclear tests carried out by Pyongyang, a report said Sunday.

“Within the realm of social and cultural exchange between the two Koreas, only sports has survived the strained relations,” Kim Dong-sun, a professor from Kyonggi University, said in a report published by the state-run Korea Development Institute. “Sports exchanges have often led to breakthroughs in inter-Korean relations.”

The two Koreas, which remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War, have kept in touch in the sports sector despite ups and downs in politics and military tensions for decades.

The countries marched together at the opening ceremony for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and the Koreas competed as one at the World Table Tennis Championships in 1999. North Korea sent a group of supporters to the Asian Games in Busan in 2002 and Incheon in 2014. Since 2008, when the conservative Lee Myung-bak government took office, nearly all talks to form a joint team in world sporting events have made no headway amid frosty inter-Korean ties.

Kim, however, noted that sports can be an icebreaker as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un focuses on fostering sports as a tool to promote nationalism and heighten the regime’s status at home and abroad.

The North Korean government has allowed its national team to visit the South, and vice versa, with the national anthem of South Korea being played in the North.

Recently, North Korea’s women’s ice hockey team visited South Korea in April to compete at a test event for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, while the South Korean women’s football team held a game with their North Korean counterparts in Pyongyang.

“South Korea should make broader contact with the North in various sport fields,” the professor pointed out.

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