Unified Korean swimming team takes bronze at Asian Para Games after judging controversy

October 9, 2018

JAKARTA/SEOUL, Oct 9 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) — The unified Korean swimming team took a bronze medal at the 3rd Asian Para Games in Indonesia after accepting the organizers’ decision on Tuesday.

The Korean Paralympic Committee (KPC) in Seoul said the unified team will accept the judges’ decision to cancel Japan’s disqualification in the men’s 400-meter 34P freestyle relay final and will receive bronze.

The medal will be the first ever for the unified Korean team at an international sports event for the disabled. South and North Korea decided to form unified teams in swimming and table tennis for this year’s Asian Para Games.

On Monday, the Korean team finished third in the 400m freestyle relay at Gelora Bung Karno Aquatic Center in Jakarta after China and Japan. But after the race, the judges disqualified Japan for a false start and were poised to give silver to the Korean team.

However, following Japan’s appeal, the judges overturned their initial decision. Then Korean team filed a complaint. The organizers later decided to postpone the medal ceremony until they made the final decision.

Although the unified Korean team accepted bronze, there are still issues to be resolved. According to the KPC, the Asian Para Games organizers said that only South Korean para swimmers will be able to stand on the podium during the medal ceremony since they were the athletes who competed in both qualifications and finals.

The unified Korean team comprises four South Koreans and three North Koreans. For the qualification round, two South Koreans and two North Koreans competed together, but for the finals, only South Koreans hit the pool.

The organizers said that those who only competed in the qualification round can receive their medals through their team leaders.

The North Korean officials were unsatisfied with the organizers’ decision to exclude their athletes from the podium, as were the South Koreans.

“It’s a decision that goes against the message of the unified Korean team, which is peace and harmony,” said South Korea’s chief manager Jung Jin-owan. “We’ll use every channel available to allow both North and South Korean athletes to stand on the podium.”

The KPC said it sent a request to the Asian Paralympic Committee and the organizers for North and South Korean swimmers to be on the podium together considering distinctiveness of the unified Korean team.

The unified Korean para swimming team athletes celebrate after finishing their 400-meter freestyle relay event at the 3rd Asian Para Games at Gelora Bung Karno Aquatic Center in Jakarta on Oct. 8, 2018. (Yonhap)

The unified Korean para swimming team athletes celebrate after finishing their 400-meter freestyle relay event at the 3rd Asian Para Games at Gelora Bung Karno Aquatic Center in Jakarta on Oct. 8, 2018. (Yonhap)

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