North won’t get free World Cup coverage: South
While the South provided the North with free coverage of the 2006 Cup under the previous administration, this year’s measure is in response to recent North Korean provocations.
The airways are among the products that require government approval before reaching North Korea. An official at the Unification Ministry in Seoul said yesterday that while SBS, the South Korean broadcaster of the World Cup, reserves the right to manage its coverage, “Considering the North’s series of provocations to South Korea of late, our government believes that the North must pay an appropriate price after proper negotiations that abide by international regulations.”
The two sides had negotiated over broadcast rights last August and again in January. Sources said North Korea demanded a free feed, but SBS said that if North Korea didn’t have the cash, it should at least help SBS produce the games.
Last Wednesday, North Korea asked for more negotiations, but this time SBS has not responded.
“We told the North Koreans that it would be difficult to push our negotiations any further given the South Korean public’s sentiment on North Korea, with regard to the Cheonan sinking,” an official at SBS said. “And we don’t plan on offering a free feed to North Korea, anyway.”
Tensions between the two countries have run high since the South Korean Navy patrol corvette sank on March 26. Investigators have found traces of an explosive among the wreckage, and North Korea is suspected of having launched a torpedo attack on the warship.
Last month, North Korea seized South Korean facilities at Mount Kumgang, in response to the South’s refusal to resume tours at the resort. The tours were suspended in July 2008, after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier in a nearby military zone and the North failed to respond to the South’s demand for security guarantees.
The World Cup begins in South Africa on June 11. SBS said if North Korea wants to secure coverage, negotiations must wrap up by the end of this month at the latest.
North Korean interest in this year’s tournament may be particularly keen because the country is playing its first World Cup since 1966. This is also the first time the two Koreas are competing at the same World Cup.
The North’s first game is June 15 against five-time Cup champion Brazil in Johannesburg. North Korea will play in the so-called “Group of Death,” with Brazil and powerhouses Ivory Coast and Portugal.
When the 2006 World Cup in Germany took place, the Roh Moo-hyun administration practiced a more engaging policy than that of current President Lee Myung-bak. North Korea received a free feed from the games, and the South dipped into the state-run inter-Korean cooperation fund and broadcast development fund to cover the 150 million won ($132,600) in costs.
By Lee Young-jong [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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