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Updated: November 23, 2010 17:14 IST

Koreans together on Asian Games podium

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South Korea's gold medalist Yun Ok-hee holds her national flag as bronze medalist Kwon Un Sil of North Korea walks past after the medal ceremony for the women's individual archery finals at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. Photo: AP.
South Korea's gold medalist Yun Ok-hee holds her national flag as bronze medalist Kwon Un Sil of North Korea walks past after the medal ceremony for the women's individual archery finals at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. Photo: AP.

Two South and North Korean athletes shook hands and stood side-by-side on the Asian Games medal podium on Tuesday as their countries waged a deadly military skirmish.

In the women’s individual archery competition, South Korea’s Yun Ok—hee won gold, beating Cheng Ming of China in the final, with Kwon Un Sil of North Korea securing the bronze medal.

Yun walked over to Kwon with the South Korean flag draped over her shoulders after winning the competition, and the North Korean gave her a friendly pat on the back.

Yun shakes hands with Kwon

Kwon, wearing a red team jacket, and Yun, with a multicoloured team top, both stood with their hands behind their backs before the medals were presented. But when Yun was introduced to the crowd, she stopped to shake hands with Kwon before proceeding to get the gold medal.

Neither athlete wanted to comment on the political tension on their divided peninsula in a later news conference, where organizers tried to restrict questions.

Yun said she didn’t care about the political tension and declined to answer questions, saying “We are supposed to get questions relevant to the competition only.”

Kwon said she didn’t know anything about the skirmish.

“My only goal was to win the gold medal"

“I just try to do my best in my performance. I don’t pay attention to, or care about the situation,” Kwon said through a translator. “My goal at this Asian Games, and my only goal, was to win the gold medal.

“It is not only for my own aspirations but also for our great leader.”

Seoul claimed that North Korea shot dozens of rounds of artillery onto a populated South Korean island near their disputed western border earlier Tuesday, reportedly killing a marine and injuring 13 people.

South Korea said it returned fire and scrambled fighter jets in response, and said the “inhumane” attack on civilian areas violated the 1953 armistice halting the Korean War. The two sides technically remain at war because a peace treaty was never negotiated.

There was no evidence of animosity between the delegations at the archery range as competition progressed. After she’d won the bronze medal playoff, Kwon and her coach spent time in the same rest area and exchanged greetings with two South Korean team officials.

During the playing of the South Korean national anthem, the flags of both countries were raised side by side. Yun pulled out a large South Korean flag after the anthem was played and held it in outstretched arms in front of a group of South Korean fans.

At a later photo opportunity, Kwon didn’t appear to mind standing beside Yun as she held up a South Korean flag for the cameras.

Manuel Silverio, the Olympic Council of Asia’s media committee chairman, said he was pleased to hear the archers react in such a positive way and urged athletes from both sides to remain at the games, which bring together more than 10,000 athletes from 45 countries and are due to finish on Saturday.

"A sports festival"

“The OCA is making an appeal to all athletes from both sides that they must stay together to show that they are here to compete, and never withdraw,” Mr. Silverio told The Associated Press. “This is in the OCA and IOC constitution that this is a sports festival, a sports arena. It is nothing related to here.”

Mr. Silverio said neither team had asked for any extra security arrangements due to Tuesday’s events. When contacted for comment, both sides said there was no plan to quit the games.

North Korean wrestler Yang Kyong Il appeared shy and answered simply “I don’t know” when journalists asked him about the skirmish after the medal ceremony for the men’s freestyle 55 kilogram class.

Yang took the silver after losing to an opponent from Uzbekistan and shared the podium with bronze medalist Kim Hyo—sub of South Korea, though the two were not next to each other.

Organizers canceled a post—ceremony news conference.

Keywords: Asian Games

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