The Jakarta Post
Pointing their index fingers to the sky, and shouting “One Korea” with big smiles on their faces, members of the Unified Korean team stood side by side for the first time in the history of Para sports to receive the bronze medals on the podium under the same flag at the Gelora Bung Karno Aquatic Center on Wednesday.
The team, comprising South and North Korean swimmers, won the medal in men’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay 34 points after clocking in at 4:24.95 in the Monday race. Japan won the gold, while China came second.
The 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta marked the first time both countries competed as a team in a Para sports event. The white flag with the picture of the Korean Peninsula in blue, which was raised on the podium, expresses hope of reconciliation over a Korea divided in 1945.
The two countries sent two teams to play together in table tennis and swimming, but they only achieved a medal in swimming.
Majid Rashed, the president of the Asian Paralympic Committee, who presented the medals to the winners together with Indonesian Asian Para Games Organizing Committee chief Raja Sapta Oktohari, said he was grateful to witness such a historical moment.
“This is one of the most important and historical moments for all of us, that sports unites both Koreans for the first time ever in the Para Games, and [as a team] they won the bronze medal,” Rashed told the media after Wednesday’s medal ceremony.
Rashed expressed hope that the historical moment could inspire all athletes and countries participating in the Para Games.
He went on to say that winning a medal in the Para Games for the Unified Korea team was a message to the world that “sport is a land of tolerance and peace […] we all should be united”.
“Especially in Para sports, [the competition] is not just about medal and ranking — it is beyond that. Whole communities can share these stories, our stories.”
The medal ceremony for the men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay 34 points was postponed until Wednesday because after the race, the judges disqualified Japan, who finished first place after a false start.
However, after a protest from Japan’s team, the judges changed their initial decision. It was then followed by another protest from the Korean team. The organizers later decided to postpone the medal ceremony until they made the final decision.