South Korean Women's Hockey Coach Has 'Mixed Feelings' Over Joint Korean Team
South Korea women’s national ice hockey coach Sarah Murray said Tuesday that she has “mixed feelings” about having to coach the joint Korean team at the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics, according to Joel Lee of YONHAP. Murray said that it is "exciting" to coach the first-ever unified Korean team in any sport at the Olympic Games, though she wished it did not "have to come at the expense of her own players." She said, "It's exciting to be a part of something that's so historic, to have two countries so divided come together through sports. I think the story is great and to be a part of it is important. But at the same time, it's mixed feelings because it's at the expense of, 'We don't get to play our full roster.'" The IOC announced last Saturday that North Korea will have 12 players join the current 23-player South Korean squad for the women's hockey tournament. Murray previously said that she does not think any North Korean player is "good enough to crack the top three lines." She will not "just put any North Korean player on the ice just to give them Olympic experience." She said, "Right now, our plan is we're going to pick the best players" (YONHAP, 1/22).
FACING CRITICISM: In Seoul, Choi He-suk reported criticism and concerns about South Korea's actions in dealing with North Korea continue despite the government's "attempts to allay concerns." In a statement that began, "Pyongyang, PyeongChang, pyeongwha (peace in Korean)," Senior Presidential Press Secretary Yoon Young-chan "attempted to appease critics" and highlight South Korea President Moon Jae-in's administration's plans. Yoon said, "Voices of concern over North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Olympics and forming a unified women's ice hockey team are being raised by the media and the political circle." He added that related concerns "arise from hopes for the success" of the Games. He said, "Despite such worries, (I) must point out that we must (hold) the PyeongChang Olympics successfully, and that North Korea's participation in the Olympics will contribute to the success of the PyeongChang Olympics" (KOREA HERALD, 1/22).
SPLIT OPINIONS: UPI's Jennie Oh reported South Korean media on Monday "showed split opinions" on the government accommodating North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Games. South Korea's most circulated newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, "criticized Seoul for being overly obliging toward the North" when it abruptly canceled the team's initial trip set for Saturday without an explanation. The "right-leaning" paper said that there is "criticism that if the South continues to be dragged along by the North in this manner, this could negatively impact denuclearization talks in the future." Meanwhile, left-wing paper Hankyoreh "emphasized the progress of inter-Korean relations." The front-page story headline described the IOC's approval of the North's participation in PyeongChang as "an incredible gift" (UPI, 1/22).
JOINT TRAINING: REUTERS' Hyonhee Shin reported South Korea's offer to send athletes to a North Korean ski resort for joint training ahead of next month’s Olympics "risks" giving leader Kim Jong-un’s regime "legitimacy and some much needed cash," North Korean defectors and experts said. Already facing criticism, Moon's administration "may come under further pressure if it is seen to be endorsing Kim's luxury getaway on North Korea's east coast." Former South Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Sung-han said, "The idea of joint training could be used as a propaganda tool to rationalize how far-sighted Kim Jong-un was in making what was actually an anachronistic decision to build the ski resort at a time when ordinary citizens are starving to death" (REUTERS, 1/21).