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by Mark Sensen
contributed by Mark Sensen, 10 September 2000
Koreas To March at Sydney Together
By STEPHEN WILSON, AP Sports Writer
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Athletes from North and South Korea will march together behind a unification flag during opening ceremonies at the Olympics - the first time the countries of the divided peninsula have joined together at the games.
International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch announced the agreement for the joint march Sunday night during a speech at the Sydney Opera House opening the IOC's annual meeting.
"It's a very important gesture to show to all the world the will of the two Koreas to be unified as soon as possible,'' Samaranch said at a news conference.
Samaranch said there would be 180 marchers in all, 90 from each country. The North Koreans were concerned their team, numbering around 50 athletes, would barely be noticed among the 400-strong South Korean team.
They will march behind one flag held by two athletes, one from the North and one from the South, Samaranch said, with uniform details still to be worked out between the two nations. The team name in the march will be simply Korea.
The athletes will wear the same uniforms for Friday's opening ceremony; during the games, however, they will compete as separate countries, with their own uniforms, flags and anthems, Olympic officials said.
Samaranch said that he personally brokered the deal during negotiations stretching over five days in Sydney, with the IOC's executive then approving it. After the announcement, he posed for photos standing between IOC members from the countries, Kim Un-yong from the South and Chang Ung from the North.
"We are the same blood,"' Chang said.
Kim said the flag depicted a map of the entire Korean peninsula and was used when the Koreas fielded joint teams at the World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan, 10 years ago and at the World Youth Soccer Championship in Lisbon in 1991.
"It's a very, very powerful symbol,'' IOC executive board member Anita DeFrantz of the United States said. "I think it might bring a lot of people to tears on the 15th of September.''
"I think this is very good news for sport, for the Olympic family and also for the games of Sydney,'' Samaranch said.
Chang said the entire North Korean delegation totaled 70, and could not say how that would affect the number of people who marched.
The Koreas remain technically in a state of war because their three-year conflict in the early 1950s ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
South Korean ministers raised the Olympics issue with their counterparts during recent talks in Pyongyang, the capital of the communist North.
"It's not so complicated to march together,'' Kim said last week. "There is no deadline. We will do everything to promote peace, dialogue and cooperation. We are willing to go to the last minute.''
Samaranch sent letters to the leaders of both countries before June's historic summit between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.
Samaranch proposed that all Korean athletes march jointly under the Olympic flag, which would be followed by the flags of each country. South Korea quickly accepted the proposal.
The North Koreans said they didn't see the need for the two national flags because the countries' ultimate goal is unification.
This flag was used too at the Coca-Cola World Youth Football Championship held in Portugal in 1991, where the Peoples Republic of of Korea and the Republic of Korea presented a united team.
This flag was also flying at the Asian Games in 1991.
Juan Manuel Gabino, 12 September 2000
According to my sources (Japanese news reports and my own interviews with ethnic Koreans and others), this flag was proposed by ethnic Koreans in Japan and their supporters at the 1985 Kobe "Universiad" Games. It was intended as a flag that could be used to cheer on sporting teams of both Koreas, or of ethnic Koreans who had no choice but to compete under either the North or South flag.
It should be noted that the ethnic Koreans are a significant ethnic minority in Japan, accounting for 37% (all figures for the year 2000) of the foreign nationals living in Japan (1.33% of total population), or more than 1% of the total Japanese population (126,919,288) - if one counts the sizable number of ethnic Koreans who have taken Japanese nationality together with those who have not. These people have been living in Japan for about four generations now, mostly descendants of people who relocated (many of them were forcibly relocated) to Japan during the Japanese colonization of the Korean peninsula.
The flag was first displayed at the 1991 World Ping-Pong Championships which were held in Chiba Prefecture, Japan in April of that year. At this event, ethnic Koreans of Japan competed together on a single team for the first time. After its introduction to the world stage at the Sydney Olympics, it came to symbolize a unity of ethnic Koreans all over the world, as well as of those of Japan.
Tony Laszlo, 31 October 2001