Handball team departs for Berlin

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Handball team departs for Berlin

The South Korean members of the unified Korean men’s handball team departed Friday for Germany, where they will compete alongside North Koreans at the upcoming world championships.

Sixteen South Korean players and head coach Cho Young-shin headed to Berlin, where they will meet the North Korean delegation — composed of four players and three officials — to prepare for the 2019 International Handball Federation (IHF) World Men’s Handball Championship. The biannual tournament will be co-hosted by Germany and Denmark from Jan. 10 to 27.


The South Korean men’s handball team poses for a photo at Incheon International Airport before departing for Germany for the 2019 IHF World Men’s Handball Championship on Friday. [YONHAP]

The rosters for the 24-team tournament are set at 16 players each, but the IHF allowed the pan-Korean team to add four players and compete with an expanded roster.

Korea is in Group A with Germany (world No. 1), Russia (No. 4), France (No. 5), Serbia (No. 6) and Brazil (No. 27). South Korea is No. 19 and North Korea is not ranked.

The joint team will face host Germany in the tournament opener on Jan. 10 in Berlin. After round robin action, the top three teams from each of the four groups will advance to the main round. Those 12 teams will then be divided into two groups of six, and the top two from each will move on to the semifinals.

South Korea failed to qualify for the past two world championships — in 2015 and in 2017 — and finished 21st in 2013.

Head coach Cho said even though his side will face global handball powerhouses in the group stage, they will not give up.

“It’s meaningful that we’re going to compete in our first world championships in six years with North Koreans,” he told reporters at Incheon International Airport. “We have strong teams in our group, but we’ll face them with a learner’s mindset and fight with grit.”

Cho said he will try his best to make a cohesive team through which the players from the South and the North can create positive energy.

“I heard that North Koreans who play handball from a young age face difficulties when they became adults because there are not enough clubs,” he said. “I expect them to have junior-level skills compared with our players, but I need to find out their capabilities through training.”

South Korean captain Jung Su-young said the players are determined to perform as a unified team.

“I noticed that I’m a senior to the North Korean players, so I think my job is to help our young players show their best performance,” he said. “Winning is important, but I want to focus more on us playing a good game as one team.”

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