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North, South Korea to Field United Team for 2008 Olympics


North and South Korea say they are ready to unify on the athletic field. For the first time, senior sports officials say the two countries will compete as a combined team in the next Olympics.

North and South Korea's top athletes will go for the gold as part of the same team during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and in the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar.

Senior athletic officials from both countries confirmed the news on the sidelines of the ongoing East Asian games in Macau, China.

North Korean team representative Kim Yeong Min says the united team will be a powerful display for the world. Mr. Kim says the unified team will show the world that North and South Korea are one nation.

North and South Korean athletic teams have marched together in several past athletic opening ceremonies, but never competed as a unified team.

The Korean peninsula has been divided by the world's most heavily fortified border since the communist North fought the capitalist South in a 1950-53 war. But contacts between the two Koreas have increased in a gradual warming of relations since a historic 2000 summit in Pyongyang.

Sports-related cooperation is part of a broader strategy of North-South engagement supported by the South Korean government.

The two Koreas are expected to work out details of the combined team in a meeting next month in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

The location has come to symbolize South Korean economic engagement with the North, because it is the home of a South Korean industrial joint venture with Pyongyang. It is also where Seoul opened its first government liaison office in North Korea last week.

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