INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 04:  The athletes of Team Korea in acgtion during the Women
INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 04: The athletes of Team Korea in acgtion during the Women's Ice Hockey friendly match against Sweden at Seonhak International Ice Rink on February 4, 2018 in Incheon, South Korea. The friendly match was held ahead of the Olympic Games where South and North Korea competes for the first time as a unified team in a sport at the Olympic Games. 4 North Korean athletes; Suhyun Jong No.26, Songhui Ryo No.14, Unhyang Kim No.4 and Chunggum Hyong No. 30 got position on the Starting Line-up. (Photo by Woohae Cho/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Woohae Cho/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
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(CNN) —  

The joint North and South Korean women’s ice hockey team competed together for the first time Sunday in a friendly match against Sweden, under a controversial Olympics unity deal.

It was the first and only practice match for the team, which will compete as “Korea” under the unified flag at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The Games get underway on Friday.

Sweden defeated Korea 3-1 in Sunday’s friendly, a decent result for the Korean team which have only had a few days to train together before facing last year’s fifth-ranked team in the world.

Korea and Sweden go head-to-head in a friendly match Sunday ahead of the Olympic Games.
Korea and Sweden go head-to-head in a friendly match Sunday ahead of the Olympic Games.
PHOTO: Woohae Cho/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

The match saw 23 South Korean ice hockey players join forces with 12 players from the North, dressed in uniforms emblazoned with the single word “Korea” over a map of the peninsula.

The Korean team did not stand for either the North or South Korean national anthems. Instead, after the Swedish anthem, the Koreans played the traditional folk song “Arirang.”

Athletes listen to Korean folk song "Arirang" during the friendly match.
Athletes listen to Korean folk song "Arirang" during the friendly match.
PHOTO: Woohae Cho/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

North and South Korean women
North and South Korean women's ice hockey players (pictured warming up before the match) last played against each other in April 2017.
PHOTO: Woohae Cho/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

North Korea will send 22 athletes to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, under a deal reached with Olympic officials last month. The athletes will compete in ice hockey, ice skating and skiing across five disciplines.

While the decision to march into the opening ceremony and compete in women’s ice hockey under one flag heralds a thaw in relations between North and South, observers have expressed concern that Pyongyang is still doing little to scale back its nuclear ambitions.

“Despite these overtures to improve relations with the South, North Korea has yet to show any intention to fulfill its international obligations regarding denuclearization,” said South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha last month.

Joint US-South Korea military drills – which infuriate Pyongyang and raise tensions on the peninsula – have been suspended for the duration of the upcoming Olympics as a show of good faith, though they are likely resume following the competition.

But North Korea plans to hold a military parade before the Winter Olympics begin, putting further strain on diplomatic relations with the South in the days ahead of the Games.

Demonstrators face off outside first match

As the Korean team prepared to battle Sweden at the Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon, anti-North Korea protesters faced off with pro-unity crowds outside.

A protester rips up the North Korean flag outside Sunday
A protester rips up the North Korean flag outside Sunday's hockey match.
PHOTO: Woohae Cho/Getty Images

On one side, up to 100 anti-North Korean demonstrators denounced North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and criticized plans for the two Koreas to march under the unified flag.

Protesters described the Games as the “Pyongyang Olympics” – referring to the North Korean capital – instead of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

“It was really difficult for South Korea to get the opportunity to host the Olympics,” said 54-year-old protester Choi Yong-suk. “And now we are not even allowed to hold up our own flag. Instead, we have to cheer with the unified flag.”

South Korean peace activists perform a welcoming dance before the match.
South Korean peace activists perform a welcoming dance before the match.
PHOTO: Woohae Cho/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

Meanwhile, pro-unity demonstrators held up Korean unification flags and signs that said “Proud Korea, together we’re stronger.”

“I hope this joint hockey team can be the beginning of peace on the Korean Peninsula,” said 51-year-old supporter Jang Soo-kyung.”The Olympics is an event that’s supposed to unite everyone beyond political and cultural beliefs.”