Basketball Diplomacy Brings 2 Koreas Together

Basketball Diplomacy Brings 2 Koreas Together
Basketball Diplomacy Brings 2 Koreas Together

Following the 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics, sports diplomacy has helped bring South and North Korea together as South Korea basketball teams come to Pyongyang to have a series of games and the two Koreas hope the games will foster a spirit of détente.

South Korean players arrived in Pyongyang on two military aircrafts. South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon headed the delegation, which also included 20 government officials and support staff and dozens of South Korean reporters.

The South Korean male and female basketball players are expected to play four matches with North Koreans on Wednesday and Thursday. The basketball teams will play a total of four matches and return home on Friday.

It is not yet clear whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would attend any of the games, but he did make an appearance at a concert put on by South Korean musicians in Pyongyang earlier this year. As AFP mentioned basketball as “Kim Jong-un’s favorite sport”, his attendance seems mostly probable at the games between the two nations.

Basketball fan Kim - who has met former Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman several times in Pyongyang - reportedly expressed his enthusiasm for basketball exchanges at a landmark summit with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in in April. The exchanges are the latest result of a diplomatic outreach to the South that Kim announced during his annual New Year’s speech. That led to the North’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February and two summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

 History of Basketball Diplomacy

Basketball diplomacy has something of a history in North Korea. The last basketball friendly took place in 2003 in Pyongyang when a gym, bankrolled by the South’s Hyundai business group, opened in the North’s capital.

South Korea’s Hyundai Company built a basketball stadium in Pyongyang during the “Sunshine Period” of engagement between the North and South and a joint game was played there in 2003.

Basketball made international headlines from Pyongyang when former NBA player Dennis Rodman arranged a game there in 2014 for Kim’s birthday. Two rounds of inter-Korean basketball games had been held before that in 1999.

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