South and North Korean basketball players played two friendly matches in Pyongyang's Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium on Wednesday afternoon as part of the continuing sports diplomacy between the two countries.
Many senior North Korean officials watched the first inter-Korean basketball match in 15 years,… and North Korea's sports minister Kim Il-guk, expressed hope the two Koreas could do more in their sports exchanges in the future.
"The basketball games are a happy occasion for the Korean people, organized by the leaders of the two Koreas who're aiming to bring down the barrier of division and put forward reunification. Through the games, the athletes will be able to treasure the affection and trust of one people."
South Korea's unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon said that sports are paving the way for inter-Korean interactions.
"Through the Panmunjom Declaration, South and North Korea are moving towards a new era of peace and prosperity and sports exchanges are at the forefront of that. The basketball games, especially, will contribute greatly to expanding sports interaction and boosting reconciliation."
After their speeches, the first game finally began at around 3:40PM in front of some 12-thousand spectators who were all excited to watch athletes from the two Koreas show off their basketball skills.
The teams were comprised of players from both sides of the border. The mixed teams were named "Peace" and "Prosperity",… team Peace wearing white and Prosperity wearing green.
In the women's match,… "Prosperity" managed to win 103-to-102. Ro Suk-yong of the North was key to the victory, scoring 18 points.
And the men's game ended in draw with both teams scoring 102 points.
But the day wasn't about the results; it was about harmony -- seeing North Korean players pass the ball to South Koreans, and South Koreans passing to North Koreans.
On Thursday,… the remaining two matches will take place between North and South Korea. The teams will not be labeled North and South but "red" and "blue",… and no national flags or anthems will be used for the event.
Despite some speculation, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un -- who's known for his love of basketball -- did not attend Wednesday's games. And Kim is unlikely to attend Thursday's game either, since he is currently performing on-site checks of infrastructure and facilities.
Won Jung-hwan, Arirang News.