Posted : 2018-02-13 18:00
Updated : 2018-02-13 18:09

Despite crushing defeat, two Koreas get together with one accord

Fans wave Korea Unification flags behind a banner that reads "We are one" during ice hockey game between team Korea and Sweden during the PyeongChang Olympics women's preliminary round match in Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, Monday. / Reuters-Yonhap

By Baek Byung-yeul

The joint Korean women's ice hockey team suffered another crushing defeat on Monday as they lost to hockey powerhouse Sweden 8-0 in their second match of the preliminary round of the PyeongChang Olympics. However, the in-game performance of the joint Korea team didn't seem to matter to the 4,200 spectators who packed the 6,000-seat Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung.

As seen in previous matches of the joint team, spectators there for the two Koreas gave the unified team their fervent support, enjoying the moment of just being there.

It was possible to find dozens of Swedish hockey fans wearing Sweden jerseys and Viking-style hats, but most of the spectators were from Korea.

"This is my first time to watch an ice hockey game. I had no thought of watching this game but decided to buy tickets to share this moment with my children," said a local man who visited the rink with his two daughters. "Though we lost to Sweden, I learned ice hockey is a speedy and thrilling sport. Also, it was meaningful to watch the two Koreas cheering on the performance."

As the Gangneung resident said, the match with Sweden featured various kinds of cheering performances from the two Koreas including songs, chanting "we are one," clapping and performing the Mexican wave, so named because it originated at the Olympics in Mexico City.

In front of the arena, Korean supporters gathered two hours ahead of the hockey game for a pep rally. When the North Korean supporters entered the arena 30 minutes before the game, supporters from the South greeted them chanting "we are one."

This was the first time for the two Koreas to hold a pep rally together at the PyeongChang Olympics. In the joint team's first preliminary round match against Switzerland on Saturday, South Korean supporters cheered for the joint team while watching a big screen installed at Hwang Young-cho Gymnasium because they couldn't get enough tickets.

Though the South and North supporters didn't sit close together, they cheered for the joint team with one accord. As the Swedish players continued widening their lead, the voices of those rooting for the joint team rose higher and higher.

"Watching the performance of the North Korean supporters, I was kind of shocked at first as they showed precision in a military-style performance," said a female spectator surnamed Kim. "I thought they were like robots because they performed like a single person. But soon I could feel they were rooting for the joint team like us and I just started cheering together with them."

The supporters from the two Koreas had good chemistry together. When a leader of the North Korean supporters began conducting the wave, the South supporters responded quickly and encouraged spectators to perform a repeated mini wave together.

Another spectator said he also enjoyed the moment of cheering together.

"I don't know much about ice hockey but I knew the game was like professional football players versus high school players. Compared to Switzerland, I think the Korean team has improved but I think there was a huge gap between Sweden and team Korea. Nevertheless, my family and I could enjoy the game because of the two Koreas' cheering performance."

The joint Korean team will play their last Group B match against Japan on Wednesday. Japan is the highest-ranked team among Asian countries, but has recorded two losses. The results don't matter for the two sides as Switzerland and Sweden will make it to the quarterfinals with two wins apiece. However, it remains to be seen whether the joint team can grab their first Olympic win against the world's No.9 team that finished sixth in the 1998 Nagano Olympics and seventh in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

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