Oreo McFlurries For Breakfast Is How North and South Korean Athletes Bonded at Olympics

They trained together, played together and lost together, but the most powerful bonding moment between the North Korean and the South Korean athletes who made up the Unified Korea ice hockey team at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics came under the golden arches of one of America’s largest fast food chains.

Four of the 23 South Korean athletes reflected about their experience playing together with the 12 North Koreans during a press conference held at the Team Korea House on Wednesday, a day after their final match against Sweden.

One of the players, the U.S.-born Randi Heesoo Griffin, recalled the moment she spotted her North Korean teammates queuing at the McDonald’s in the Olympic Village as one of her favourite memories of the past few weeks.

"In the dining hall two days ago, I saw the North Koreans in lineup at McDonald's and I was also in line at McDonald's," she said, quoted in Yonhap news agency. "They were getting Oreo McFlurries for breakfast. We all laughed about that and had McFlurries together for breakfast."

12_21_McDonalds_Olympics People walk past a McDonalds outlet in the Gangneung Olympic Village in Gangneung on February 8, 2018, ahead of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Griffin, who was responsible for the only goal the Unified Korea team scored in one of their matches—the one against Japan where a Kim Jong Un impersonator approached the North Korean cheerleaders—was not the only South Korean player who fondly remembered a moment of bonding with the North Korean team.

"My favorite memory is the time when we first dined together," the team goalkeeper Shin So-jung said at the press conference. "We just went on talking like any other girls our age, asking each other who had boyfriends and who lived where."

Marissa Brandts, who was born in South Korea but grew up in the U.S. after being adopted by a Minnesota couple—whose other daughter Hannah is also an Olympian in the U.S. ice hockey team—remembered how the team spent "a fun day" at the beach and the players "just hung out and got to know each other better."

02_21_Unified_Korea Unified Korea players embrace after the game on February 20, 2018. David W Cerny/Reuters

The team was brought together just days before the sporting event started on February 9. Trained by American-born head coach Sarah Murray and aided by an American, a North Korean and a South Korean assistant coaches, the Unified Korea team lost all of their matches, but won praise and acclaim for the diplomatic success of bringing together two countries who technically remain at war.

Angela Ruggiero, an American former ice hockey player and a member of the International Olympic Committee, was so impressed with the result she suggested the team should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. “Seriously, the team. Something that is recognizing the sacrifice they made to adjusting their competitions,” she told Reuters.

The team does not have any more matches left to play at the Pyeongchang Olympics, but the International Ice Hockey Federation chief said he’d welcome a joint team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

But not everyone was a fan of the initiative, raising concern among Olympic sponsors. “There is a polarization within Korea about whether they are for it or against it. The unified hockey team is not polling well with the younger demographic,” said Iain Jamieson, Korea country manager for Visa told Reuters. “All the brands are probably trying to stay away from that.”