DPRK and ROK hold friendly basketball match in Pyongyang
Updated 21:56, 07-Jul-2018
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) joined forces for their first basketball friendly match in 15 years on Wednesday amid the warming of relations that has happened since the Winter Olympics in the ROK's PyeongChang and the easing tensions over the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs. 
Female athletes from both sides put political differences aside to form two joint teams, “Peace” and “Prosperity,” in the friendly in the DPRK capital of Pyongyang. The packed crowd shouted and waved balloons during what turned out to be a thriller – Prosperity won 103 to 102. 
Two men’s teams played later in the day. 
“I am proud that sport has stood at the forefront of opening this great path to reconciliation, peace and prosperity between North (DPRK) and South Korea (ROK),” the DPRK's Vice-Minister of Sports Won Kil U told the ROK players when they arrived on Tuesday.  
"I hope that as the PyeongChang Winter Olympics served as foundation for peace, the unification basketball matches will serve as a chance to advance peace on the Korean Peninsula," ROK Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, who led the ROK basketball delegation, told reporters before heading to Pyongyang on Tuesday. 
Players of Team Peace enter the stadium during an inter-Korean basketball match at Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium on July 4, 2018 in Pyongyang, DPRK. /VCG Photo

Players of Team Peace enter the stadium during an inter-Korean basketball match at Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium on July 4, 2018 in Pyongyang, DPRK. /VCG Photo

The ROK players will return on Friday after two more games on Thursday, this time with the teams divided by country – but no flags will be shown. 
DPRK leader and basketball fan Kim Jong Un was not spotted in the crowd on Wednesday but the chairman of the country’s National Sports Guidance Committee, Choe Hwi, who also visited the ROK for the Winter Olympics, was sitting next to their Unification Minister, Cho Myong-gyon. 
Kim had suggested the friendlies to ROK President Moon Jae-in in April when the two held their first summit at the border village of Panmunjom, which straddles the border between the DPRK and ROK. 
The DPRK and ROK are playing basketball matches in Pyongyang as part of the rapprochement between the two sides this year. Relations have improved significantly since the first summit between Kim and Moon at the border town of Panmunjom on April 27. 
According to the Panmunjom Declaration signed by the two leaders, Pyongyang and Seoul agreed to "encourage more active cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts at all levels in order to rejuvenate the sense of national reconciliation and unity." Kim and Moon also reaffirmed the ultimate goal of "peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean Peninsula." 
To implement the Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK and the ROK held sports talks on June 18, agreeing to stage basketball matches in Pyongyang in early July and Seoul in autumn. 
It was the fourth time the two sides, technically still at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, have played together. The last match took place in 2003. 
About a month earlier, the ROK and DPRK said that they were going to form a joint team to compete in the upcoming East Asian Judo Championship in Mongolia and march under a united flag during the opening ceremony. It was going to be the first time for the ROK and DPRK to march under a united flag in a summer sports competition.
According to ROK media, the basketball games will provide an opportunity for Cho to discuss other issues with high-level DPRK officials. 
Relations between the DPRK and ROK have been warming since the DPRK sent athletes and a high-ranking delegation to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in February following a year of tension and bellicose rhetoric from both sides over the DPRK’s weapons program. 
(with inputs from Reuters) 
Source(s): Reuters