Unified North, South Korea TT team lose

Oshima Yuya of Japan returns to Beh Kun Ting of Singapore at the fifth round of Men's group match during the 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad Sweden

On paper, Japan has the upper hand as it stands second in the world rankings.

When the athletes appeared on court, the public address system announced that there was no North and no South, but Korea.

In an extremely unusual move, the women's table tennis teams for North and South Korea decided on Thursday to form a joint team ahead of their quarterfinal match at the world championships, allowing them to skip the match and advance directly to the semifinals.

The unified Korean team is guaranteed a place on the podium and medals regardless of their semi-final result.

Although Kim Song-i, from North Korea, had match points against Kasumi Ishikawa, the Japanese player triumphed 11-4 6-11 11-8 11-13 16-14.

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The KTTA said it would like to see both Koreas retain their allotted roster spots- two players for each the men's and women's singles, two teams each in the mixed doubles and five players in the team event, even if they combine their teams. It follows the significant meeting between the North's leader Kim Jong-un and South Korea's Moon Jae-in last week where the leaders agreed to work towards "lasting peace".

He said forming the joint team is historic and a great sign for reunion and peace in the world. This is Table Tennis history so we are very happy.

The last time a unified Korea team played at the tournament was in Japan in 1991 where a women's team shocked defending champions China to win gold.

In 1972, a year after the so-called "ping pong diplomacy", Richard Nixon became the first US President to visit the People's Republic of China.

The Panmunjom Declaration signed during the inter-Korea summit meeting on April 27 stipulated that the two Koreas will compete jointly at the 18th Asian Games scheduled to be held in August in Indonesia, and in other global competitions. It is thanks to the IOC that North Korea is participating here in Halmstad, due to their Olympic Solidarity support. The two Korean teams also marched together at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang at the opening ceremony.

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