A unified table tennis team of South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) won its first victory in the preliminary of an international table tennis event hosted by the South Korean side.
The Seamaster 2018 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour Platinum Korea Open kicked off its six-day competition Tuesday at South Korea's central city of Daejeon, some 160 km south of the capital Seoul.
It brought together about 230 players from 27 countries and regions, including the DPRK that sent 16 players and nine officials for the first time in history.
It marked the first time that Pyongyang dispatched players to a South Korea-hosted international table tennis event. The DPRK's table tennis players participated in the Asian Games hosted by South Korea in 2002 and 2014, respectively.
For the ITTF Korea Open, South Korea and the DPRK formed four unified doubles pairs: South Korea's Lee Sangsu and the DPRK's Pak Sinhyok for men's doubles; South Korea's Suh Hyowon and the DPRK's Kim Song I for women's doubles; South Korea's Jang Woojin and the DPRK's Cha Hyo Sim for mixed doubles; the DPRK's Choe Il and South Korea's Yoo Eunchong for mixed doubles.
Choe and Yoo won the first victory of the united Korea team, defeating Alvaro Robles and Galia Dvorak of Spain 3-2 at Hanbat Gymnasium in the central city. With the victory, they advanced to the round of 16.
The mixed Korean double, which trained together just for two days before the competition, lost the first game to the Spanish players. The Koreans took the second game, but the Spaniards claimed the first game for a 2-1 lead.
Choe and Yoo won the fourth game 11-9, but they faced a deuce at the fifth game. As soon as Choe and Yoo each got off a winner to close out the match, South Korean spectators stood up in a rush and shouted with joy for their victory.
For the very last match of the first day competition, hundreds of South Korean spectators remained late at night in the gymnasium to cheer for the unified Korean table tennis team.
The spectators waved a unified Korean flag, which has a blue shape of the Korean Peninsula on the white backdrop, chanting a phrase "We are the one." Many of them wore a white shirt having the phrase printed.
Another Korean mixed double of Jang and Cha advanced to the next stage as their Mongolian adversaries withdrew.
"The ITTF is proud to support the reunification of the North (DPRK) and South Korean table tennis teams again at the Korean Open, after the historic unification of the teams at the World Championships in Halmstad," said Thomas Weikert, ITTF president.
South Korea and the DPRK formed a unified team for women's doubles at the semi-final of the World Championships in Halmstad, Sweden held in early May.
It was the first time in 27 years that the two Koreas formed a joint table tennis team, marking the fourth joint inter-Korean sports team in history.