North won’t get Cup travel expenses

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North won’t get Cup travel expenses

After demanding a free feed of South Korea’s broadcasts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup matches, North Korea wants even more: it expects the South to cover traveling expenses for North Korean journalists heading to South Africa for the matches, and other production costs.

An official at the Unification Ministry said yesterday North Korea requested such financial support during its negotiations with SBS, the South Korean broadcaster of the June World Cup. On Monday, South Korean government officials disclosed that the North wanted SBS to provide World Cup coverage for free and that negotiations on the issue had stalled.

“North Korea was having difficulty securing enough money to purchase necessary equipment for on-site reporting and video editing,” one Seoul official said. “So they asked us for help.”

North Korea’s interest in the event is keen because the country is playing its first World Cup since 1966. It will also be the first time the two Koreas are both competing at the World Cup.

The North is trying to receive feeds of the games from the South, but will send its own journalists to do stories outside the stadiums and to interview North Korean players.

But South Korea is not buying the demands.

“Under the previous administration, when South Korean musicians performed in Pyongyang, we actually had to pay North Korea about $1 million,” another government official said. “It was such a bizarre situation. Maybe North Korea still thinks we’re a pushover.”

SBS reiterated yesterday it is the company’s “firm and consistent” stance that it will not offer broadcast feeds free of charge.

“And we also have no reason to pay North Korea [to help its World Cup coverage],” an SBS official said. “But we will reach a conclusion one way or another by the end of May or early June, taking into account the state of inter-Korean relations.”

SBS and North Korea held negotiations in August of last year and again in January. Broadcast transmissions require government approval to be sent across the border.

North Korea received a free feed from the 2006 World Cup games on tape-delay under South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun’s policy of engaging North Korea. The Lee Myung-bak government has been tougher on North Korea, and officials say the North must pay this time considering its recent provocations against South Korea.

The North is a suspect in the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March.


By Lee Young-jong [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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