2018 will surely go down as a landmark year for relations between North and South Korea.
Two summits between their political leaders in April and September concluded with them committing to an ‘era of no war’, as historic divisions between the two nations begin to fade away – no faster than on the table tennis courts.
Now both countries will be represented in the same Mixed Doubles pairing at the sport’s showpiece World Tour Grand Finals in Korea this December. Table tennis’ potential to unite on the world stage has never been greater.
THE START OF SOMETHING SPECIAL
The Peninsula initially raised attentions in the sporting world by launching a unified Korean team at the 2018 World Table Tennis Championships, formed of players from both sides of the border.
That marked just the start of the Ping Pong Diplomacy initiative, led and funded by the ITTF Foundation, as North and South Korea joined forces again at July’s Korea Open, where JANG Woojin (KOR) and CHA Hyo Sim (PRK) claimed the Mixed Doubles title in front of a proud home crowd in Daejeon.
STRENGTH, UNITY AND INSPIRATION
That pride continues to shine throughout this year’s ITTF World Tour, with confirmation arriving on Friday that there will be a unified Korean presence this December at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in the Korean city of Incheon, after JANG Woojin and CHA Hyo Sim qualified by virtue of reaching the Austrian Open semi-finals.
“Having a unified North & South Korean unified pair at ITTF World Tour Grand Final means a lot to us,” declared Ryu Seungmin, Member of the IOC Athletes Commission and former Korean table tennis player who claimed gold at the 2004 Olympics.
“This achievement represents a very significant source of inspiration both for Koreans and all around the world. I strongly believe that the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals will be another big opportunity for us to step forward in promoting peace and harmony to the world.”
EXCEEDING THE LIMITS OF SPORT
“The ITTF Foundation is very proud of the Unified Korean team. The players are the visible part of a process that exceeds the limits of table tennis and the limits of sport,” declared ITTF President, Thomas Weikert.
“We thank Sports Master for the support of the “One Korea – One Table” project, we congratulate the Unified Korean Team for their excellent results in the Seamaster 2018 World Tours, and we hope that the message of peace and unity reaches the worldwide population. Sport is a powerful tool to promote positive social changes. It is up to everyone to live them day by day!”
Make no mistake about it, the Ping Pong Diplomacy is in full swing on the Korean Peninsula. Long may its momentum continue.