If the North plays with us, they must live like us, too

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If the North plays with us, they must live like us, too

There has been talk that a unified North and South Korean soccer team may be formed for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Yet before we go out to Gwanghwamun and light another candle to show our support, we should sit down and really think this through.
Granted that there are many steps to be taken before an actual team can be fielded, but let’s assume that FIFA, soccer’s governing body, has cleared up all the technical issues and we only need to give our blessing.
Are we going to embrace this team as another step in the right direction for inter-Korean relations? Are we going to enter the stadium hand in hand, carrying a symbolic flag showing the peninsula?
Are we going to sing “Our wish is unification?”
It should not happen. Not under the current circumstances. Sepp Blatter, the current FIFA president, may jump at the opportunity to help his native Germany. What would be better for marketing purposes than a unified Korean team in the World Cup?
If they made it past the first round, people would be glued to the tube and flocking to the stadiums.
Right now, the prerequisite for a unified team would be for both Koreas successfully to navigate the final rounds of qualification for the Asian region, which are scheduled to start in February.
If only one team advances, the losing side could donate a couple of players. If both sides make it, things get more complicated, but let’s assume that FIFA allows the merging of the two teams.
How are we going to decide who is going to sit and who is going to play? Qualifying for the World Cup is a player’s dream come true. It doesn’t happen every other day.
North Korea’s soccer team, like the country, is an enigma. Little is known about the side because it rarely plays international matches; I think the team’s chances of going to the World Cup are pretty low.
Assuming that South Korea qualifies and North Korea does not, we will be giving the North Koreans a free ride at the expense of some of our players. But for what purpose?
If we do so, it should happen under one condition only. The North Korean players would be able to share a room with whomever they like. They would have free access to television, and they could talk to absolutely anyone they wished to.
There is no need for North Korean officials to accompany their players. If the South Korean players decide to go out and have some real German beer, the North Koreans would be allowed to go as well, with nobody watching over them.
We will promise North Korea that we won’t try to lure any of their players into defecting. But we should insist that they are, apart from practicing, absolutely free to do whatever they want when they play on the team.
Oh, and one more thing. If the North thinks it can send another batch of cheerleaders to accompany a unified soccer team to Germany, we should not allow it. It’s embarrassing. There’s no telling what these brainwashed robots would do.
We should settle for nothing less; if we don’t, all that will be left is hollow chants of “Our wish is unification.”


by Brian Lee
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