In a few weeks, athletes from around the world will gather in PyeongChang, South Korea to compete in the Winter Olympic Games. For some, history already is being made.
North and South Korea have announced plans to field a unified women's hockey team for the Games. The last time athletes from both North and South Korea played on the same team was in 1991, when the two countries competed at an international table-tennis championship and a youth soccer tournament.
North Korean women's ice hockey players (left) receive flowers from South Korean players during a welcoming ceremony after arriving at South Korea's national training center. (Photo: Song Kyung-Seok-Pool/Getty Images)
The agreement to form the unified team marked the first official talks between North and South Korea in two years. The team makes for a good news story, but it's not popular with everyone, particularly those South Korean players who have worked tirelessly over the last four years to make the team, only to find out in the weeks leading up to the Olympics that they will be benched in the name of politics.
More than 55,000 people have signed an online petition asking the South Korean government to reconsider the idea to create a unified team. Even those who applaud the notion of a peaceful agreement of any sort between the two Koreas can't help but wonder why women's ice hockey was singled out as the one sport to be used as a symbol of unity between the two countries.
But the wheels of this combined team are already in motion and it's unlikely that they will be stopped at this stage. Earlier this week, a delegation of North Korean ice hockey players crossed the heavily fortified border into South Korea to meet with their new teammates. The 12 North Korean players will join 11 from South Korea to form the team. As part of the accord, the team will wear unity jerseys and march under a unified peninsula flag at the opening ceremony Feb. 9.