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Olympic spirit

North, South Koreans march together in Ceremonies

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Latest: Friday September 15, 2000 08:32 AM

  North and South Korean Athletes The 110,000 fans at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Sydney cheered the unified Koreans on. AP

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Athletes from North and South Korea marched together at the Olympics for the first time Friday, waving a unification flag and holding hands before a standing ovation at Sydney's Stadium Australia.

The IOC-brokered arrangement brought the two teams together for the Opening Ceremonies. The Korean marchers wore identical uniforms -- dark blue jackets and beige pants -- with a namecard-size badge bearing a blue map of the Korean Peninsula.

"It's heart-warming," said Park Pil-soon, a spokesman for the South Korean delegation.

Neither country's national flag was carried into the stadium, where a capacity crowd of 110,000 people cheered them on. Instead, the delegations marched behind a flag with the blue map of Korea on a white background.

But some members of the North Korean delegation wore lapel pins in the red and blue colors of their flag and with a likeness of their late leader, Kim Il Sung.

The Koreans mixed freely even before the march, arriving at the stadium aboard the same buses. Led by the two sides' national Olympic chiefs -- Kim Un-yong from South Korea and Chang Ung from North Korea -- the athletes walked behind a placard that read simply "Korea."

The unification flag was carried by Pak Jung Chul, a judo coach from North Korea, and Chung Eun-sun, a star women's basketball player from South Korea.

Despite the joint march, the Koreas will compete in the Games as two different entities under their own flags and names.

The last-minute deal for the joint march nearly fell through over North Korea's lack of athletes. Though it had been allotted 90 positions for the march, it only has 31 athletes and 30 officials here. South Korea has about 400 in its delegation.

The Koreas, divided at the end of World War II in 1945, formed unified teams for the world table-tennis and youth soccer championships in 1991 but have never marched together at the Olympics.

The Korean march was the first for athletes of a divided country since East and West Germany allowed their athletes to walk side by side during the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

The South Koreans are competing in all but five events -- canoe, equestrian, modern pentathlon, softball and triathlon -- while aiming for 10 to 12 gold medals. South Korea was 10th in the medal standings of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, fourth in 1988 in Seoul, seventh in 1992 in Barcelona and eighth in 1996 in Atlanta.

North Korea will compete in judo, wrestling, boxing, gymnastics, shooting and archery.

The small North Korean contingent reflects the impoverished country's dire economic realities. The reclusive, communist country has been relying on outside aid since 1995 to feed its 22 million people.

But North Korea has been opening the outside world, particularly with South Korea, since a summit of their leaders in June. At the summit, the leaders agreed to work together for reconciliation and unification.


 
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