News

Japan Defeats North Korea in Politically-Charged World Cup Qualifier

Host Japan, with a late goal in injury time in the second half, defeated a North Korean team, mainly composed of army players, 2-1 in an Asian Group B qualifier for soccer's World Cup. Japanese officials took extraordinary security measures inside and around the stadium amid worries that any clashes between rival supporters could trigger an international incident.

The 60,000 spectators in Saitama Stadium were boisterous but well behaved.

Japan said it was concerned that North Korea, with which it has no diplomatic relations, would make a political issue out of any incidents that might occur off the field. There was no trouble reported between the Japanese supporters and the 5,000 North Korean fans, who were bussed to and from the stadium outside Tokyo.

The North Koreans were segregated in a special section with 1,000 seats on each side of them kept empty. They waved giant North Korean flags throughout the game.

Some 3,000 police and security guards were in and around the stadium - 20 times the usual number seen at professional soccer games in Japan.

Masashi Oguro, making only his second appearance with the Japan national team, scored his country's go-ahead goal just at the end of regulation time.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was among those expressing his joy after the game.

Mr. Koizumi says he was relieved to see the last-minute goal. He adds he doesn't know how Japan will perform in future qualifiers but he hopes they are prepared to do their best.

Mitsuo Ogasawara had put Japan in front with a free kick a mere four minutes into game. Japan stayed ahead until North Korean substitute Nam Song Chol scored a goal, just after the hour mark to even the score following a sluggish North Korean performance earlier.

After the game Japanese players praised their opponents, saying they gave the hosts a severe test.

North Korea coach Yun Jong Su said his players were disappointed with the outcome but relieved that the game was played in a friendly atmosphere.

North Korea will have a chance to avenge its defeat when it hosts Japan June 8th in Pyongyang's 150,000-seat Kim Il Sung Stadium. The North Koreans are pursuing their first appearance at the World Cup since a 1966 surprise run to the quarterfinals.

The game was played one day after the Japanese government received a petition from five million of its citizens calling on the country to impose economic sanctions on North Korea.

Japanese anger towards Pyongyang has been rising amid frustration over the failure of the two countries to resolve a decades-old abduction issue. Japan has repeatedly called on North Korea to reveal all it knows about the fate of Japanese kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s by North Korean agents.

North Korea's official media on Wednesday called Japan a "wicked trickster" for making public a photo of two alleged Japanese abductees who later turned out to be Koreans.

The communist state has previously said it would regard any sanctions imposed by Tokyo as a "declaration of war."

Some in Japan's government are reluctant to impose sanctions, fearing that would give North Korea another excuse not to return to six-party talks about its suspected nuclear weapons programs.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs