South and North Korea unite in rowing
The 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia has witnessed history with a combined South and North Korean rowing crew.
From 2000 to 2007, South Korea (Republic of Korea - KOR) and North Korea (Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea - PRK) have made one single team nine times. Each country has been participating in international competitions in their own name for many years due to the aggravation of the inter-Korean situation. But the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games saw DPR Korea and Republic of Korea hold hands together on the world stage and form a single team – to be designated as Korea (COR) - for the 2018 Jakarta and Palembang 18th Asian Games.
The achievement of this single team for the Asian Games is the outcome of a great deal of work behind the scenes. At the 2017 Asian Rowing Federation (ARF) Congress, South Korea was confirmed as the host of the 2018 Asian Rowing Junior Championships and Asian Cup 2 Regatta. As a part of this bid, Korea asked ARF members and the ARF President to support the role of rowing in achieving peace between the Koreas.
In a meeting with FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland, a request was made to encourage the rowing exchange between South and North Korea through the World Rowing Federation (FISA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and this was followed up by the submission to FISA of a proposal for an exchange programme between the rowing teams of the two national federations.
The first joint rowing training of the two teams took place from November 2017 to January 2018.
Invitation letters were sent to DPR Korea Rowing teams to participate in the 2018 Asian Rowing Junior Championships and Asian Cup Regatta to be held in Chungju, South Korea. Because of the political aspects of these invitations, they passed through several channels, including the United Nations.
On 11 May 2018, talks took place to form a single Korean team for the 18th Asian Games in a number of sports, including rowing. There were difficulties for rowing as each National Olympic Committee was limited to enter only 11 events out of the 15 events on the schedule and athletes of the combined team were also subject to this requirement. This meeting was a positive one and led to a submission to the relevant high-level government authorities of plans to form a single team in designated events, including three rowing events – the lightweight women’s double sculls, lightweight men’s four and lightweight men’s eight.
This submission was eventually endorsed, and the DPR Korea Rowing team arrived at Incheon Airport in South Korea on 29 July 2018, to take part in joint training of the Asian Games crews. They trained at the 2013 World Championships course in Chungju until 12 August, when the team travelled to Palembang for the Asian Games.
In Palembang, the single rowing team attracted great interest. The combined Korean Team was designated as Korea (COR) and the rowing events were honored with the presence of the Sports Ministers of DPR Korea and Republic of Korea for the finals.
Combined teams took part in rowing, traditional boat race and 3-on-3 Basketball. Although they did not win any medals the COR teams made the final in all three boat classes they entered.
They created history for rowing and for the Asian Games.