Korean Female Hockey Team's Drama


Jeux Olympiques / JO 2018 PYEONGCHANG 627 Vues comments

I thought I should make a separate thread about this, considering its starting to gain a lot of momentum at the moment as a great majority of South Koreans are looking with contempt this decision which might marry the reputation of these games.



Plan for joint Olympics team with North gets icy reception in South Korea

SEOUL (Reuters) - While Seoul forges ahead with plans to use the upcoming Winter Olympics to showcase inter-Korean unity, some South Korean athletes are “furious” at proposals to form joint teams with North Koreans, highlighting a broader lack of enthusiasm for some of the government’s peace-making plans.


Officials from both countries are still engaged in talks over exactly how the North will participate in next month’s games in Pyeongchang. But the backlash may trip up Seoul’s plans to use the sporting event to improve bilateral ties after a year of high tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

South Korea’s women’s ice hockey team was the first to be singled out for possible integration with North Koreans, with Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan saying the government would ask Olympic organizers to expand the team’s roster from 23 to more than 30.

That came as a shock to team members, who had just returned to South Korea last Friday after training in the United States for the past three weeks, a senior official with the Korea Ice Hockey Association said.

“They were just furious and found the idea absurd,” the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “We are utterly speechless that the government just picked us out of blue and asked us to play with total strangers at the Olympics.”

The proposal has also sparked an outcry from thousands of South Koreans, who have signed online petitions asking the presidential Blue House to drop the idea.

“I cannot help but think the government is abusing its power to make political gains from the Olympics,” said one comment on the petition. “Taking roster spots from South Korean athletes who have put so much effort for the Olympics - a dream stage for all South Korean athletes - for the North Koreans is not fair at all.”

More than 70 percent of South Koreans oppose forming a joint team with the North, according to a Jan. 11 survey released by the office of the South’s National Assembly Speaker and television network SBS. More than 80 percent, however, said they welcomed the North’s participation in general.

A spokesmen for the Blue House referred questions to the ministries involved in the talks with North Korea.

The sports ministry said it was discussing the matter with the International Olympic Committee to “minimize any disadvantage” for the South Korean team.

“We will also be taking the public opinion into consideration prior to making the final decision,” a ministry official told Reuters. The unification ministry declined to comment.


The public backlash underscores how North Korea diplomacy, which has often come in the form of one-sided assistance from Seoul, remains a source of bitter division and contention within South Korea. The two countries are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in truce, not a peace treaty.

Liberal President Moon Jae-in wants to revive ties with North Korea that froze under nearly a decade of conservative rule in the South. His administration has proposed the two Koreas make a show of unity at the Games, marching together at the opening and closing ceremonies and competing together as one nation.

But South Korea’s ice hockey association hasn’t heard much from the politicians spearheading those plans, other than being told by the sports ministry to “get prepared,” the senior official said.

“Honestly, we have no idea what’s going on. Frankly, I do not know what they meant by to ‘get prepared’ since we do not have any channels to talk to the North Korean team,” the official said.

Among the issues to be worked out are the roster, game strategies and the appointment of a head coach to lead the joint team.

“None of these crucial and basic issues have been discussed at all. And the South Korean team’s first tournament in the Olympics is only three weeks away,” the official said. “Can you believe this? None of this makes any sense.”

The association did not make athletes available for interviews, saying they were in the final round of training before their first game on Feb. 10.

Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan has defended the proposal for a joint ice hockey team, arguing that by expanding the roster, no South Korean athletes would be left out.

South Korea will have the “coaching rights” for the team as well, he said during a parliamentary session on Monday, and the unified team would not “hurt South Korean athletes and their team capability.”


Choi Moon-soon, governor of Gangwon province, where the games will be held, said the negative public views may be the result of frigid inter-Korean relations under previous conservative administrations. But he added that public opinion would change once North Korea attended the games.

“The two Koreas have marched at nine games so far, and the world gave its blessing to the two Koreas,” Choi said. “There were few people who opposed that.”

But Kim Dae, a 26-year-old engineer in Seoul, said there was no clear point in having a unified team.

“I do not understand what this united team is for. It almost feels like two different teams are forced to play together at the Olympics,” Kim said. “Who’s benefiting from this joint team anyway?”

A separate Jan. 8 poll by Realmeter found that 54 percent of South Koreans supported Seoul’s plans to provide accommodation and other expenses needed for the stay of the North Korean delegation during the games, while 41 percent opposed it.

Conservative lawmakers questioned whether the potential problems were worth the political gains.

“Many people worry that North Korea is taking advantage of the Pyeongchang Olympics to publicize its political propaganda,” parliament member Kim Ki-sun said on Monday. “How long did the peace last after the two Koreas marched together in past games?”

To add more insult to injury, it seems they even forced SK coach and the team players to not even talk to journalists anymore. 



S. Korea hockey coach says 'damage' inevitable if N. Koreans are added for Olympics

INCHEON, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea women's hockey head coach Sarah Murray said Tuesday her players will suffer "damage" if North Korean players are added to the team for next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Murray made the remarks after returning home from the team's U.S. training camp in the wake of the South Korean government's proposal to form a single Korean team at the Olympics.

Both Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan and Prime Miniter Lee Nak-yon have gone on record as saying adding a few North Korean players to South Korea's current 23-player roster will not affect homegrown athletes because hockey is played in short shifts and players all get turns taking the ice.

But their stance overlooks the fact that the Olympic roster is set at 22 and at least some players, either South Korean or North Korean, will likely have to sit out as healthy scratches.


"I think there is damage to our players," Murray told reporters at Incheon International Airport. "It's hard because the players have earned their spots and they think they deserve to go to the Olympics. Then you have people being added later. It definitely affects our players."

   South Korea made the joint team proposal at high-level inter-Korean talks last Tuesday, during which North Korea offered to send an athletic delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics. The two sides will further discuss the hockey team issue and other matters at a working-level meeting Wednesday.

South Korea's proposal for a single Korean squad wasn't made public until Friday. And Murray, daughter of former National Hockey League head coach Andy Murray, said she only found out Sunday that this was happening, and she didn't actually hear anything directly from the sports ministry or other government sources. She got calls from her national team staff and also from reporters at NBC in the U.S. and CBC in Canada.

"I am kind of shocked this happened so close to the Olympics," Murray added. The PyeongChang Games start on Feb. 9 and South Korea's first game is the very next day against Switzerland.

"When rumors were going around about this happening, I didn't really believe it. And it's getting more and more serious now," she added.

Seoul's push for the joint team has met with some backlash from a public that understands South Korean players may be robbed of a chance to play in what could well be their first and last Olympics. South Korea, ranked 22nd, is making its Olympic debut as a host nation, and despite recent progress, is not yet good enough to qualify for Olympics on merit.

Murray's team is an eclectic group of overachievers with chips on their shoulders and budding teenagers who have already been through some big moments on ice. Their overcoming of adversity on and off the ice has been well documented, and collectively the women's hockey players have attained the status of sentimental favorites at the Olympics.

Murray said her players are now faced with another challenge and they should try to clear the latest hurdle.

"We (coaches) talk to them a lot about mental toughness. And this is a great test of mental toughness," she said. "Worrying about what you can control ... because things that are out of your control are distractions. We can't control this situation so we just have to worry about what we can control and make sure we do our best, so that after the Olympics, we don't have any regrets and use this as an excuse as to why we didn't perform our best."

   Do, the sports minister, first broached the possibility of a joint hockey team last June, but the idea didn't seem to last long, with critics questioning its feasibility. Murray admitted that once such talk was finished last summer, she didn't think the matter would be raised again.


"The players said in June not to make them a political statement and that they just want to play the game. I agreed with them," the Canadian said. "We've been working so hard. This is another distraction and we have to worry about things we can control. We can't control this situation. We just have to work on doing what we do best. And just play our game."

   If the unified team is put together, Murray said her biggest concern would be "team chemistry."

   "Adding somebody so close to the Olympics is a little bit dangerous just for team chemistry because the girls have been together for so long," she said. "Teaching systems and different things ... I'd have about a month to teach these (new) players the way our team plays. That makes me a little nervous."

   South Korean officials have said they're seeking to keep the South Korean roster of 23 and add extra North Korean players and that they've asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) for cooperation. According to these officials, the IOC and the IIHF are also seeking understanding from other participating nations because a roster expansion granted to only one team would create an uneven playing field.

Murray said she felt other countries may understand the situation and see it as a "political statement."

   "They (may) understand that North and South Korea coming together through sports is a great story," she said. "I just wish it would have happened earlier."

   And no matter how many North Koreans are added, Murray said no one will be guaranteed ice time.

"I hope that I am not being pressured to play (North Koreans)," she said. "I am hoping we can just play the way we play and not have the influence of, 'I need to play this player.' I just want the best players to play. If you play your best, then you earn your ice time. Whether you're South Korean or North Korean, they have to earn their place."

Many players of the Hockey team are also reported to be displeased with the whole sudden decision, working for many years with the hopes of winning gold only for being most likely placed in the bench because of a political statement. 

The most insulting thing was the PM saying "They weren't going to win anyway" as a justification. Even if that was the case, you just don't say that. It's a big shame the opportunities of many female athletes went into the trash due to this. I initially didn't understood why some conservatives in SK kept accusing Moon and his friends of being closeted North Korea sympathizers, but after this I think i'm starting to understand. This has also affected Moon Jae In reputation. His support has dropped 20 points since November after the whole drama with the Hockey team happened.

What's the opinion of the rest of GB about this new drama happening around these games?