North Korean media lauded the players and supporters of the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team Sunday after their first match at the Olympics – without mentioning their 8-0 drubbing.
Kim Yo-jong, the sister of the North’s leader Kim Jong-un, was on hand to watch the game against Switzerland with her country’s ceremonial head of state and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The match was a political event as much as a sporting one, with the unified team – the Koreas’ first for 27 years, and first ever at the Olympics – part of a deal forged last month and a symbol of Moon’s hopes for a “peace Olympics”.
And Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency focused on the team and the North Korean cheerleaders rather than the 8-0 defeat – mentioning neither the outcome nor the score in its dispatch.
“The appearance of the players and the impressive picture of the cheering groups once again made the spectators feel keenly that the Korean nation is a . . . nation which can’t live separated from each other,” it said.
Cheering spectators from both Koreas “burst into warm applause and cheers” to support players “skilfully driving the puck, calling each other by the same language and pooling efforts”, it added.
The unified team is made up of 23 Southern players and 12 Northerners, with at least three from the North required to be on the starting roster of 22.
But the last-minute decision to form the team was slammed by many South Koreans, who accused Moon of using athletes for political purposes and robbing Seoul’s own citizens of opportunities to compete at the Olympics.