News / Asia

N. Korean Footballers Make Rare Seoul Visit

North Korean women's national soccer team players listen to head coach Kim Kwang Min after training session, Seoul World Cup stadium, South Korea, July 19, 2013.
North Korean women's national soccer team players listen to head coach Kim Kwang Min after training session, Seoul World Cup stadium, South Korea, July 19, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
North Korea's women's football (soccer) team is on a rare visit to Seoul to play in the East Asia Cup and on July 21 will take on rival South Korea. While relations between the teams remain tense, analysts say the friendly sports exchange could help improve relations on the peninsula.
 
This is only the second time the North's women's team has competed in South Korea in the East Asia Cup tournament. The last time was in 2005 when Seoul hosted, and won, the first women's games organized by the East Asian Football Federation.
 
Technical coach of the North Korean team, Kim Kwang Woong, declined to comment on whether its participation would help inter-Korean relations, telling journalists in Seoul Friday they were just there to play football, but pleased to take part in the tournament.
 
"[We] will participate in the matches with techniques, tactics and spirit that [we] have built," he said, adding that he has strong trust in the team's prospects for victory.
 
The competition follows months of military tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul. The two countries also remain deadlocked in negotiations over reopening their joint industrial complex, which has been closed since April.
 
Professor Chung Young-chul, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Seogang University, says capital's welcoming of the North Korean football team promotes friendlier inter-Korean relations.
 
"In the past, sports and cultural exchanges have contributed to easing political tensions between the two Koreas and create an atmosphere to hold political talks," he said.
 
Negotiators from North and South Korea on Monday will enter the Kaesong factory park for a fifth round of marathon negotiations. Pyongyang wants operations to resume immediately but Seoul demands guarantees the North will never again unilaterally shut it down.
 
While the football match between the two Koreas will be heated, analyst Chung Young-chul says that based on past tournaments, South Koreans are likely to cheer for the North when they play other teams.
 
"So, if North Korea competes with Japan or China at these games, there will be many South Koreans who will cheer for North Korea," he said, adding that this cheering will strengthen compatriotism between the two Koreas.
 
"But it does not mean that South Koreans politically support North Korea," he said.
 
A mutual nationalism against tournament leader Japan, in particular, is expected to unify Korean fans, as historic grievances against Japan's 35-year colonization of Korea are felt on both sides of the divided peninsula.
 
The North Korean team plays Japan on July 25 and China on July 27.
 
International sports have in the past helped bring the two Koreas together in a show of friendly unity. They have participated together in the opening ceremonies of some past Olympics, including under a special flag at the 2000 Sydney games.
 
More recently, the North and South Korean teams remained separated at the Olympics as political tensions between the countries increased.
 
At last year's London Olympics the North Korean women's soccer team walked away in protest after the South Korea flag was mistakenly displayed next to their photos.
 
Pyongyang and Seoul have held off-and-on discussions about one day fielding a joint team, but have so far failed to agree on a way to make it happen.

VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

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.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid