Tue, Mar 26, 2002 - Page 16 News List

Taiwan snags 200 tickets for World Cup

CONNECTIONS Just 60 tickets for the upcoming World Cup in South Korea and Japan will go on sale to the general public, while extra flights to Seoul from Taipei are possible

By Jules Quartly  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER , WITH AP, TAIPEI

Though extra flights from Taipei to South Korea for the World Cup are being discussed, it is unlikely soccer fans in Taiwan will be able to get tickets for games in the first place.

A government minister said yesterday Taiwan may approve charter flights by a local carrier from Taipei to Seoul during the World Cup, which runs from May 31 to June 30.

Taiwan suspended direct air links served by the countries' carriers in 1992, after South Korea broke off formal relations with Taiwan and instead recognized China. Presently, two foreign air carriers operate the route.

There have been talks about resuming flights, but Taiwan has previously insisted that Seoul respects the nation's sovereignty first.

But with the World Cup and increasing tourism to South Korea from Taiwan, there has been increasing pressure to improve air links between the two countries.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) said the proposed flights would be the first flights by an air carrier of either country since the two sides fell out 10 years ago.

Taiwan may approve the flights on a ``reciprocal and mutually beneficial'' basis, he said.

Far Eastern Air Transportation Corp has applied to the transportation ministry for permission to operate charter flights twice weekly during the World Cup, the airline's public relations manager, Benny Tsao said.

Orange light

"We have applied for a license to operate charter flights, but we have not received approval and as yet we have not been given a date for the decision."

Tsao said the cost of tickets for the flight would be dependent on market demand and the travel agencies.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Taipei Football Association confirmed yesterday that only 60 tickets for World Cup games would be released for sale to the Taiwan public.

A soccer association spokeswoman said 200 tickets had been allocated to Taiwan by FIFA, the world soccer governing body.

Of these tickets, 140 would be going to association members, players, coaches, observers and other nominated individuals.

The association is making arrangements with agents to provide travel and hotel packages to the World Cup games and this would partially determine the cost of the tickets, she said.

China, by contrast, has been given 10,500 tickets, 85 percent of which will be given to soccer fans, according to Xinhua news agency.

A total of 3.2 million tickets for the tournament will be issued.

Of these 1.5 million will be sold in the host countries, with the remaining 1.5 million for overseas sales and 200,000 for FIFA executives and the media.

Allocation of tickets on a country-by-country basis depends upon its size and relative importance in the world's official soccer family.

World Cup fever is starting to take hold and Tsao said there had been many enquiries about the proposed flights to Seoul.

China fears

Chinese-language media reported that Taiwan wants high-ranking officials to sign the new air-links agreement, but Seoul has been reluctant to do this for fear of angering China.

Last year, 118,000 people from Taiwan flew to South Korea for sightseeing and business aboard the two foreign air carriers which are operating the route, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways.

Travel agents have complained about a shortage of Taipei-Seoul flights, saying there has been an explosion of interest in visiting the country because of its televised soap operas and pop culture.

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