>> What was supposed to be a friendly ice hockey match in South Korea turned into a politically loaded game. The joint Koreas women team played their first match on Sunday against Sweden, ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. The crowd went wild as around 3,000 people cheered for the joint team, some holding a unified peninsula flag.
It was a keen start by the Koreas team, who scored a goal in the first period of the game. But they were no match for Sweden, who won 3-1. Over the last month, North and South Korea agreed to a combined women's ice hockey team after a new round of talks amid a thaw in cross-border relations.
The International Olympic Committee said 12 North Korean players would join the South's 23 player squad. As well as ice hockey players, its athletes will compete in skiing and figure skating events. While the reaction to the North's decision to participate in the Winter Games was met warmly in the South, the decision to form a combined women's ice hockey team has sparked a public backlash.
Ahead of the game, conservative groups held protests, and called for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to step down. It comes at a time of heightened tensions over the North's nuclear ambitions. North Korea's participation in the Olympics, which run from the 9th to the 25th of February, has been interpreted as a show of reconciliation.
While Sunday's result was a disappointment, hopes are high that the unified team could help improve ties.