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Inter-Korean handball team to start training this weekend

Dec 18,2018
The unified Korean men’s handball team formed to compete at the upcoming world championships will begin training this coming weekend, Seoul officials said Monday.

The Korea Handball Federation (KHF) said the 16 South Korean players will travel to Germany, co-host of the Jan. 10-27 International Handball Federation (IHF) World Men’s Handball Championship with Denmark, on Friday. The North Korean delegation, with four players and three officials, will join them the following day.

South Korea earned their spot in the World Championship by finishing third at the 2018 Asian Men’s Handball Championship at Suwon in January. This is the first time in six years that a Korean team will compete at the World Championship.

The joint team, which will be called “Korea,” will face Germany in the tournament opener on Jan. 10 in Berlin.

With South Korean head coach Cho Young-shin at the helm, the 16 South Korean players gathered for an early camp at the National Training Center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong, on Monday.

For the World Championship, Cho made an aggressive attempt to push for a generational change. Cho called back seven players from the 2018 Asian Games and added nine younger players to create his roster. The average age of the South Korean players is 25.8, more than four years younger than the Asian Games roster.

The rosters for the 24-team tournament are set at 16 players each, but the IHF allowed the pan-Korean team to add four players and compete with an expanded roster.

Korea is in Group A with top-ranked Germany, fourth-ranked Russia, fifth-ranked France, sixth-ranked Serbia and 27th-ranked Brazil. South Korea is No. 19 and North Korea is not ranked.

After the round robin, the top three teams from each of the four groups will advance to the main round. Those 12 teams will then be divided into two groups of six, and the top two teams from each will move on to the semifinals.

South Korea failed to qualify for the past two world championships in 2015 and 2017, and finished 21st in 2013. Since Korea first played at the World Championship in 1986, the country has competed 11 times. Korea had its best finish in 1997, at eighth.

The World Men’s Handball Championship was first held in 1938 by the IHF and European countries have been the all-time powerhouse in the tournament. France has won the most titles - six - and Sweden has won the most medals - 11.

BY BAE JUNG-HYUNE, YONHAP [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]