North and South Korea teams unite at table tennis world championships

    Staff members and players from both South Korea and North Korea pose with a flag.

    Story highlights

    • North and South Korea were meant to play each other
    • Teams decided to combine for the semifinals
    • Korea lose 3-0 to Japan

    (CNN)Though there was no victory to cheer, there was still plenty to celebrate as a unified Korean table tennis team made history and provided another symbolic moment in the continued rapprochement between two countries still technically at war.

    North and South Korea were due to play each other in the quarterfinals of the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden, but instead of going head-to-head decided to form a unified team.
      It was a move approved by organizers, with Thomas Weikert, president of the sport's governing body, ITTF, telling reporters: "When I informed the board of directors about this development, the unified team received a standing ovation from the delegation and showed their sign of support to this historic move."
      The Korean team went on to lose 3-0 to Japan in Friday's semifinal, but the result seemed to matter little as players from the two countries -- Kim Song I (PRK), Yang Haeun (KOR) and Jeon Jinhee (KOR) -- embraced after defeat.
      Sport has, throughout the years, helped ease tensions on the peninsula and this year in particular it is sport which has given the two countries reason to talk again following the escalating hostility in 2017 over Pyongyang's ballistic missiles program.
      It was February's Winter Olympics in South Korea which underpinned the first meaningful dialogue between the neighboring states in over two years.
      For the first time in 11 years, athletes from North and South Korea walked in unison at the opening ceremony of an Olympic Games, while it was at the PyongChang Games, dubbed the "Peace Olympics," that the unified women's ice hockey team made its Olympic debut.