[EDITORIALS]The resuming of a rivalryIt has been agreed that the North Korean national soccer team will visit Seoul on Sept. 6 and play a match with the South Korean national team on Sept. 8 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. The news means a revival of the Seoul-Pyeongyang soccer matches. We hope that the news, which came as World Cup fever sweeps the nation, will serve as a catalyst for reconciliation and understanding between the North and the South.
The World Cup is a global festival in which the Korean people demonstrate their potential and capabilities to the world, while strengthing international integration and cooperation. At the moment, the roaring cheers heard in Korea can be heard around the world. The zeal for the World Cup might be felt in the North, too. Although a proposed unified soccer team of the North and South has not materialized, the agreement of a soccer match in Seoul makes us optimistic.
In 1929, during the Japanese rule, a soccer match between Seoul and Pyeongyang was first held, and rematches continued to be held, alternating between the two cities. The matches helped to not only form the root of Korean soccer tradition, but they also awakened young Koreans to a national spirit and assisted in uniting the people as one. The rivalry went beyond a sporting event. It provided Koreans a chance to restore their identities. The popularity of the matches was so great that businesses shut down for a day in whichever city held that year's match.
The last Seoul-Pyeongyang soccer match was played at Seoul Stadium in March 1946. Subsequent matches were suspended due to a national division. In 1990, North and South Korea played two more soccer matches. One of the unification matches was held in Seoul and one in Pyeongyang. At the third North-South ministerial meeting held in Jeju in Sept. 2000, both sides agreed to revive the Seoul-Pyeongyang soccer competition, but no progess was made due to stalled inter-Korean relations.
For Koreans, the rivalry is more than a mere sporting event. Spectators and players in the North and the South make contact with each other, often recognizing that they are brethren. With the renewal of the North-South soccer matches, it is hoped that discussions on other issues will bring the two Koreas together.