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(Asiad) Rare all-Korean final heats up Hangzhou Asiad

At the ongoing 19th Asian Games in China, South and North Korean athletes have faced each other in many competitions, such as women's football, judo and boxing.

At Gongshu Canal Sports Park Gymnasium in Hangzhou on Monday, another all-Korean matchup was set up in the final of the women's doubles table tennis, which has a long history of united Korean teams for about three decades.

South Koreans Jeon Ji-hee and Shin Yu-bin clashed with North Koreans Cha Su-yong and Pak Su-gyong for the first Asiad gold medal in ping pong in 21 years.

North Korea, who returned to the international sports stage after years of pandemic-led closure, was seeking its first table tennis title since 2014, when its mixed double team topped the podium.

It was the first gold medal match between South and North Koreans in any sport at the Hangzhou Asian Games.

And it was the first inter-Korean gold medal match in table tennis since the 1990 Asian Games, when the South Korean team beat its North Korean counterparts.

But the current chilly diplomatic relationships between the two Koreas apparently repeated at the rare final showdown.

When the two pairs entered the stadium before the match, the athletes did not exchange glances, and had prematch handshakes briefly and expressionlessly.

On the stand, athletes from the two countries cheered their teammates playing the final, but they did not seem to interact with each other or give friendly gestures.

The unusual match ended in a one-sided game. The South Korean team, the world No. 1 women's doubles duo, beat North Korea 4-1 (11-6, 11-4, 10-12, 12-10, 11-3), featuring their high level of skill and experience.

After the final, the North Korean players congratulated Jeon and Shin, and took photos together on the podium during the medal ceremony.

But the Cha-Pak pair did not attend the post-match press conference without explanation.

Source: Yonhap News Agency