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Two Koreas Disagree on Flag and Anthem in Soccer Match

Posted February. 11, 2008 03:08,   

한국어

South Korea beat Turkmenistan 4-0 in its first 2010 South Africa FIFA World Cup Asian qualifier, increasing their chances of advancing to the next round.

North Korea also defeated Jordan 1-0 in an away game.

The second qualifying match between North Korea and South Korea on Mar. 26 is now in the center of attention. The two Koreas will also match against each other on Feb. 20 in the East Asia Soccer Championship in Chongqing, China, held from Feb. 17 through 23. Still, fans are more excited about the match in Pyongyang.

However, there are many problems to be solved besides the match. Before the first match, North and South Korean working-level officials discussed pending issues but ended up only confirming their differences.

The most critical issue is regarding the South Korean national flag and anthem. Vice president of the Korea Football Association Cho Jung-yeon, who participated in the negotiation, held in Gaesong on Feb. 5, said, “We were not able to communicate at all because North Koreans said they cannot play the South Korean anthem and hang the national flag, even though it is not a friendly match but an official match hosted by FIFA.” The delegation had intended to negotiate on a variety of issues such as finding ways for supporters and reporters to visit the North and dispatching a preparation team, but the issues involving the national anthem and flag stopped the discussion from the start.

Cho said, “North Koreans said that they have never seen the South Korean flag hung up in the sky and heard the national anthem played on their soil in history, so they said they could never allow them. But I said it is nonsense to use the Korean Peninsula Flag and Arirang instead, in a country-to-country match.”

In the A-Match, a match between national teams, hosted by FIFA, the national flags and anthems of both countries are displayed and played in principle. North Korea, however, is refusing to accept the principle and asking South Korea to use the Korean Peninsula flag and Arirang like in the South-North Unification soccer match.

“We made it clear that we should use the national flag and anthem. Now the ball is in North Korea’s court. If we cannot reach an agreement, we cannot exclude the possibility of playing in a third country,” said the KFA vice president.

The negotiation will continue during and after the East Asia Soccer Championship, but an agreement will not be easily achieved because North Korea is expected to continue its psychological war to win control, given the equal footing of the two Koreas in the game.

Even if the problems involving the national flag and anthem are resolved, other disagreements, such as the number of reporters and supporters, are expected to make the rest of the negotiation more difficult.

So far, South Korea leads North Korea with five wins, three draws and one loss.



yjongk@donga.com