North Korean athletes to compete in the upcoming Asian Games arrived here on Sunday for joint training with South Koreans.
The delegation of 34 athletes and coaches landed at Incheon International Airport via Beijing. The Koreas will assemble unified teams in canoe's dragon boat racing, women's basketball and three events in rowing at the Aug. 18-Sept. 2 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia. They have never previously competed together at any Asian Games, summer or winter.
The North's delegation is made up of 18 canoeists, eight rowers, four women's basketball players and four members of the support staff.
Surrounded by tight security, the North Korean athletes left the airport without speaking to the media. Asked for his thoughts on the arrival, Han Ho-chol, secretary general of North Korea's Olympic committee, simply said, "It's nice to see you all."
The athletes and officials were dressed in blue uniform. The men were decked out in light blue shirts and dark blue pants with pink ties, while the women were in blue one-piece dresses.
As soon as they were ushered out of the airport, the delegates boarded buses bound for Chungju, 150 kilometers south of Seoul where they will train and stay over the next couple of weeks.
According to the Korea Canoe Federation (KCF), the North Korean paddlers will work out with South Koreans at Chungju Tangeum Lake International Rowing Center in Chungju.
Cho Hyun-sik, vice president of the KCF who spoke briefly with North Korean canoe coach Kim Kwong-chol, said, "Their athletes looked quite tanned. They must have been training hard."
The Korean Rowing Association (KRA) said its joint team athletes in three rowing events -- lightweight men's four, lightweight men's eight and lightweight women's double sculls -- will also train together at the same rowing center.
Exact training schedules in these sports have not been determined. North Korean paddlers and rowers will be put up at a facility in Chungju.
In women's basketball, three North Koreans -- center Ro Suk-yong, guard Jang Mi-gyong and guard Kim Hye-yon -- were named to the unified team on July 17, and they'll play alongside nine South Koreans.
South Korea, the defending Asian Games champion, is currently in Taiwan for an international tournament called the William Jones Cup and will return Monday.
The North Korean basketball players will stay with the rest of the North Korean delegation in Chungju.
South Korean players are scheduled to resume their training Wednesday, and the three North Korean players could join them the same day. (yonhap)