Asia Minute: The Politics of Korean Olympic Ice Time

Jan 26, 2018

Credit Republic of Korea / Flickr

The Winter Olympics get underway in two weeks in South Korea. A North Korean delegation will be coming—from athletes and cheerleaders to government officials. But one of the biggest challenges is facing a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Sarah Murray knows about competition.

Her father was the head coach of two National Hockey League teams and a key part of Team Canada, and she played in college for the University of Minnesota at Duluth.

Since 2014 she’s been the coach of South Korea’s women’s ice hockey team.

Shortly after she was hired, she told the Calgary Herald “we’re very early in the building stages.”

For the last couple of weeks, she’s been in the re-building stages—because she now has to integrate a dozen North Korean players into her existing team of 23.

What could sound like a diplomatic dream is frankly kind of a coaching nightmare.

This week she told the Joong Ang Daily that “it’s exciting to be a part of something that’s so historic…but at the same time, it’s mixed feelings, because….we don’t get to play our full roster.”

The North Korean players crossed the border Thursday to start practicing.

Here’s some hockey math: the original team was 23 players, the new total is 35, but only 22 players can dress for each game…including at least three North Koreans.

Coach Murray is still putting competition above symbolism—saying “We’re not going to make a line just to make a line of North Korean players just so they can get ice time. We’re going to put in players that are going to be successful and we’re going to play to win with the roster we have.”