When North and South Korea fielded a joint women’s ice hockey team for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the decision turned out to be more symbolic than practical: The team lost all of its games, sometimes by embarrassingly wide margins.
A unified women’s basketball team is now doing a whole lot better: It handily dispatched three of its first four opponents this month at the Asian Games in Indonesia, and will play in the quarterfinals on Sunday.
“North or South Korean, we all have the same desire to win,” Lee Moon-kyu, the team’s coach, told reporters this month after his players pummeled the tournament host, Indonesia, 108-40.
Feel-good sports diplomacy is one way that Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, is trying to soften the image of his nuclear-armed regime in the eyes of the South Korean public, analysts said. His strategy may help lessen short-term fears of war on the Korean Peninsula.
But for many in the South, a unified women’s basketball team is hardly a slam dunk for inter-Korean rapprochement, much less proof that the North would ever dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
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