Uncertainty over South Korea's World Cup visit to Pyongyang

Uncertainty over South Korea's World Cup visit to Pyongyang
North Korea's fans celebrate during the World Cup Group H qualifying soccer match between North Korea and Lebanon at the Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. North Korea won the game 2-0. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s soccer association is unsure whether its World Cup qualifier against North Korea next month will take place in Pyongyang or on a neutral ground.

The Seoul-based KFA said it hadn’t yet received any information from its counterpart in Pyongyang regarding logistics for the Group H match, which would be a first competitive meeting between the national men’s teams in the North Korean capital. North Korea hosted South Korea for an international friendly there in 1990.

North Korea nominated Pyongyang as the host venue for the Oct. 15 game after the Asian qualifying draw was made in June.

The KFA said it sent an “additional letter” to the Asian Football Confederation on Monday to see where North Korea stands on the match.

With the two countries still technically at war because 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, a meeting in the 50,000 capacity Kim Il Sung Stadium would be symbolic, particularly as the two countries have expressed their intention to submit a joint bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

South Korea’s women’s team played in Pyongyang in an Asian Cup qualifier in 2017 and traveled to the northern capital via Beijing. The KFA is hopeful that the men’s squad can travel straight across the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two countries.

“When North Korea tells us where to pick up our visa, then we’ll prepare accordingly,” the KFA said. “We have also submitted to the unification ministry a list of items we need to take to North Korea.”

It is possible that the game will be played in a neutral country, with the South Korean media reporting that Beijing is an option. During qualification for the 2010 World Cup, North Korea opted to host games against South Korea in Shanghai.

North Korea sits on top of Group H with two wins from its opening two games in the second round of Asian qualification, including a win in Pyongyang against Lebanon. South Korea has played only one game so far, winning 2-0 in Turkmenistan.

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