Switzerland spoils Korea’s unity party

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The unified Korea women’s hockey team thrashed 8-0 by Switzerland. Photo Yonhap News

Switzerland’s Alina Muller almost single-handedly spoiled Korea’s Olympic unity moment on Saturday, scoring four goals to power the Swiss to an 8-0 win over Korea’s unified women’s ice hockey team.

The game, played before South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, was the first played by a Korean hockey team at the Olympics.

It drew international attention for featuring players from both North and South Korea, who wore white jerseys with an image of a united Korean peninsula emblazoned in pale blue.

There was a carnival atmosphere as the near-capacity crowd cheered hard for their team from the moment the puck dropped and roared each time a Korean player held possession.

Some 100 North Korean cheerleaders were on hand, decked in red track suits, leading chants for the spectators and singing North Korean pop songs.

In addition to Moon and Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong, the game was attended by Kim Yong Nam, North Korean titular head of state, and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach. Earlier on Saturday, Kim invited Moon for talks in Pyongyang, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than 10 years.

The countries are still technically at war since a 1953 armistice, though they have resumed talks after a year-long standoff between North Korea and the United States in which an exchange of threats between the heads of state elevated tensions and prompted the North’s continued missile and nuclear tests.

The Korean fans’ enthusiasm for Saturday’s game was not dampened by the scoreline, as many saw it marking progress towards peace on the Korean peninsula and hundreds of spectators waved unification flags.

“I feel really good and touched. I feel fortunate to see a historic game. This will contribute to inter-Korean peace,” said Jang Sung-ho, who came to watch the game with his seven other family members.

“It is a historic game. This small step will pave the way for inter-Korean peace,” 44-year-old office worker Oh Eun Seok said.

The  Korean women’s hockey team will hope to  bounce back game against Sweden in their  second game of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Monday.

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