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Jan. 25, 2019 — Hockey diplomacy, part deux?

Whenever the Republic of Korea (which most people in the Western world call “South Korea”) competes in field hockey, the usual name which is used in FIH competition is “Korea.”

Recently, however, the program representing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (which most Westerners call “North Korea”) has broken through into the top 40 of women’s indoor field hockey programs, holding 37th place — one placing ahead of China.

North Korea has not been much of a player on the world hockey front. Indeed, the last time the DPRK qualified for a major tournament, it was the 1990 Asian Cup.

But in a bit of Summer Olympics diplomacy, there is now an effort from FIH to combine the two Koreas into unified men’s and women’s sides to compete in the 2020 Olympics. This, after North and South competed together in the women’s ice hockey tournament at PyeongChang last year.

“The FIH has put together an action plan with the objective to get to the participation of a unified Korean hockey team for future FIH events, potentially for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” said the FIH statement.

This attempt at unification, however, is a tougher row to hoe than in women’s ice hockey. The different in class between these two programs is, frankly, the difference between chalk and cheese. South Korean teams have won three silver medals in their recent history, most recently, the men’s shootout loss to Holland at Sydney 2000.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s outdoor teams programs do not even register a blip on the outdoor radar. Neither gender holds a single outdoor ratings point.

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