A proposal by South Korea and North Korea to form multiple joint teams for qualification for the next Summer Olympics will be up for approval at an upcoming International Olympic Committee meeting, Seoul's sports ministry said Monday.
Following a tripartite meeting with the IOC on Feb. 15, the two Koreas decided to combine teams in four sports in which they hope to compete as a unified Korea at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They are women's basketball, women's field hockey, judo and rowing.
According to the ministry, this proposal will need the approval of the IOC Executive Board, whose next meeting is scheduled for March 26-28 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
If those teams qualify, Tokyo 2020 will be the first Summer Olympics in which the Koreas will have unified teams. At last year's PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea, the two Koreas had a joint team in women's ice hockey. South Korea had an automatic berth in the tournament as the host nation, and 12 North Korean players were added to the South Korean squad of 23 players just a couple of weeks before the start of the Olympics.
The IOC previously said there were "ongoing talks" between the two Korean Olympic committees and their governments on unified teams in other sports. Canoeing has emerged as a potential addition to the list, with South Korea scheduled to select one female canoeist for the possible joint team during the national team trials on April 17.
The Koreas combined for one gold and two bronze medals in dragon boat racing, which is a canoeing discipline, at last year's Asian Games in Indonesia. They also competed as one in women's basketball and rowing, winning silver in the former.
Once the IOC finalizes the sports for combined Korean teams, the two sides will determine schedules for joint training ahead of qualifying events.
Women's field hockey in Tokyo will feature 14 countries. There are two Olympic berths available at each of the three International Hockey Federation Women's Hockey Series Finals in Ireland, Japan and Spain in June. South Korea has qualified for the event in Ireland from June 8 to 16 and will be up against the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Malaysia, Scotland, Singapore and Ukraine. Only the top two from that group will qualify.
Four more Olympic berths will be at stake during the 2019 Women's Hockey Pro League competition, which will conclude in June.
Finally, four additional spots will be distributed based on FIH world rankings as of Sept. 20.
In women's basketball, 12 nations will play in the Olympics, and host Japan and the reigning world champion the United States have already secured their spots. That will leave everyone else to vie for the 10 remaining berths through a multiphase qualifying process.
In rowing, the two Koreas will try to earn their quota places at the 2019 World Rowing Championships, running from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1 in Ottensheim, Austria.
In judo, the Koreas will look to have a joint team in the mixed team event. They sent a combined team to last year's world championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. For Tokyo 2020, judokas will first have to qualify for individual events in their weight classes in order to take part in the team competition.
According to the sports ministry, the Koreas will continue to engage in sports exchange programs, in addition to their joint Olympic efforts.
South Korea is awaiting a North Korean response to an invitation to the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships, to be hosted by Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, from July 12 to 28.
The Korea Ssireum Association in Seoul has asked Pyongyang to co-host a festival celebrating traditional Korean wrestling in June, while officials are planning a joint taekwondo demonstration performance this year.
In table tennis, where the Koreas have a history of successful cooperation, talks are under way to field joint teams in the men's and women's doubles and in the mixed doubles at the International Table Tennis Federation World Table Tennis Championships from April 21 to 28 in Budapest, Hungary.
From July 2 to 7, Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, will host the ITTF World Tour Korea Open. Then from July 24 to 28, Pyongyang will stage the lower-tier ITTF Challenge Plus Pyongyang Open.
South Korea is hoping it can host North Korean players in Busan and send its own athletes across the border later in July.
North Korea sent 16 players to last year's Korea Open in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, where the mixed doubles team of Jang Woo-jin (South) and Cha Hyo-sim (North) won the gold medal. The two teamed up for silver at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of the South Korean capital. (Yonhap)