South and North Korean politicians unite as women's ice hockey team bring hope of peace despite defeat

IOC President Thomas Bach with Team Korea #COR

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Korea's eagerly-anticipated joint ice hockey debut ended in defeat as the unified women's team were thrashed by Switzerland in an historic encounter in front of a crowd featuring top-level officials from both countries here today.

It was one of those rare occurrences in sport, though, where the result really was secondary to the occasion.

Earlier, Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, had visited the Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul and invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang to conduct their first summit in more than a decade.

If that leads to peace on the Korean Peninsula then this hastily-assembled side will have achieved something more significant than the 8-0 defeat they suffered tonight.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, who helped engineer the creation unified Korean team just weeks before the start of the Games, was among the dignitaries in attendance.

Bach was sat on the same row as Moon and Kim.

She was accompanied by other high-ranking members of the North Korean delegation.

It was the second consecutive night in which Moon and Kim were pictured together after they shared a handshake during last night's Opening Ceremony, where athletes from their respective nations marched side-by-side under the unification flag.

The dignitaries were sat in front of a group of North Korean cheerleaders, who sang and danced in unison even as Switzerland racked up the goals with ease.

The move to bring the two nations together for the ice hockey tournament has not been universally popular in the Winter Olympic host nation, while it nearly collapsed on the eve of the Games when North Korea threatened to withdraw following comments made by United States Vice-President Mike Pence.

The vast majority of those inside the arena, though, flew the unification flag and seemed to be fully behind the joint team.

After politics brought them together despite concerns raised by South Korean coach Sarah Murray, it was time for the sport to take centre stage.

For many of those watching at the venue, the result, which was always going to be a formality against a team ranked sixth in the world, was irrelevant.

The main aim of the joint team is to demonstrate peace and harmony in an effort to warm the frosty relations between North and South, technically still at war having only signed a ceasefire to end the war in 1953.

Switzerland were not in the mood for sentiment, however, as they negated the emotional occasion with consummate ease to begin their campaign with a win.

The Swiss were 3-0 up after the first period as Anna Muller took advantage of lax Korean defending to score a hat-trick.

Muller then added her fourth early in the second stanza before Phoebe Stanz twice got in on the act to make it 6-0.

With plenty of time left on the clock, Korea were at risk of total humiliation as Lara Stadler bagged a double to extend their lead to eight.

Korea continued to search for a goal of their own but it proved elusive as Switzerland saw out a comprehensive victory on a momentous occasion for the hosts and their North Korean counterparts.

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