Tue, Feb 12, 2008 - Page 20 News List

SOUTH AFRICA 2010: North and South Korea in row over flags and anthems


North and South Korea are in dispute over national anthems and flags in advance of a rare soccer match in Pyongyang next month, a report said yesterday.

The two sides will meet in the North's capital on March 26 in a regional qualifier for the 2010 World Cup finals.

It will be the first time the national teams have played each other in Pyongyang since a friendly was staged in 1990 to symbolize hopes for reunification.

But the North at a preparatory meeting last Tuesday refused to let South Korea display its flag and play its national anthem at the match, the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said.

"We were not able to communicate at all because the 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 newspaper quoted Cho Jung-yeon, vice president of the Korea Football Association, as saying.

"The 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," Cho said. "But I said it is nonsense to use the Korean Peninsula Flag and Arirang instead, in a country-to-country match."

North and South Korea marched together under the "unification" peninsula flag at the Asian Games opening ceremony in Doha last December, where the traditional "Arirang" song was performed.

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

The communist North and capitalist South have remained technically at war since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean conflict and neither nation officially recognizes the other's existence.

South Korea beat Turkmenistan 4-0 in their latest Asian qualifier last week, while North Korea defeated Jordan 1-0.

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