Seoul to offer matches to Pyongyang

South Korea's World Cup bid chairman says he would let North host games in 2022.

    South Korea's Cho Won-Hee and the North's Pak Nam-Chol fight for the ball in Seoul last year [AFP]

    South Korea have moved to boost their 2022 football World Cup bid by saying they would allow North Korea to host matches.

    The consistent hostility between the two states ignited again last week when a South Korean navy ship sank in the disputed Yellow Sea border off the west coast on Friday.

    But the South's World Cup bid chairman said on Wednesday that the pair could be brought closer together if Pyongyang hosts "two or three matches" at the finals.

    "It (hosting the World Cup) will contribute greatly to not only the football game itself but to the international situation in and around the Korean peninsula," Han Sung-joo told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

    "We have plans to arrange a couple of games, maybe two or three games to be played in the northern part of Korea."

    Reports the North may have been involved in last week's shipwreck were ruled out.

    "We don't know exactly what the situation will be by the year 2022, we might be a unified country or we might still be a divided country, either way it will be a good opportunity to bring North Korea into the mainstream of the world and it will contribute good relations between north and south," said Han.

    Heading to South Africa

    The hosting of World Cup matches would help the impoverished North, who will play in their first World Cup finals for 44 years in South Africa in June. Their neighbours also travel to the finals.

    Pyongyang has come under pressure to end a more than one-year boycott of international talks to end its efforts to build a nuclear arsenal.

    The tensions have spread to the football sides after the South beat the North 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier last year.

    North Korea complained to world governing body Fifa that their players had suffered vomiting, diarrhoea and headaches as a result of poisoning by the South, a claim rejected by the south.

    "We have not discussed this matter in any official way and I don't expect the North Korean football people to be able to say anything authoritative about this but we will have plenty of time between this year and 2022 regarding the collaboration," Han said.

    The decision on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 finals will be made in December.

    Should South Korea be chosen, Han believes they can set an example for emerging countries to host major international events.

    "It would be giving a message that a country that came out of war, under development and division can become a very successful developed and capable country and provide a World Cup that contributes to regional and world peace," Han said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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