Players from North and South Korea trooped to Pyongyang on July 4th to play in a series of goodwill basketball games. There was a festive atmosphere that filled a Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium that was filled to its 12,000 person capacity. This is the first time the countries will play against each other since 2003.
The players were mixed into two teams that competed against each other. The Green and White men’s teams ended the night in a 102-102 draw. North Korean men’s and women’s teams will play against their South Korean counterparts today. The South Korean squads are set to return home on Friday.
Basketball is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s favorite sport and he reportedly suggested this event to South Korean president Moon Jae-ing during their summit in April.
The event has been described as a gesture of goodwill amid recent moves by North Korea to dialogue with the West. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to visit North Korea this year to discuss the future of their nuclear program.
This is a breath of fresh air with basketball being used as a tool to break down barriers and foster peace, sportsmanship, and camaraderie. It brings back a positive light to the sport following the controversial brawl that took place between the Australian and Philippine teams during the Asian Region FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.