South Korean teams head North to play ball in Pyongyang

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South Korean teams head North to play ball in Pyongyang

Two South Korean teams will compete in a youth football competition hosted by North Korea over the next 10 days, the South Korean Unification Ministry announced on Thursday.

The ministry, which handles relations with the North, said the delegation will cross into North Korea this afternoon through a road linking the two countries along the west coast. They plan to return on Aug. 19 through the same route.

The under-15 tournament, jointly organized by South and North Korean sports associations, comprises eight teams from six countries, including the two Koreas, China, Russia, Uzbekistan and Belarus. South and North Korea are each fielding two teams.

South Korea is sending 151 people to Pyongyang, including 84 athletes and 26 journalists. Gangwon Gov. Choi Moon-soon will lead a U-15 team representing his province, while Kim Kwang-cheol, head of the Yeoncheon County Office in Gyeonggi, will lead one from his region. Kim Jung-tai, chairman and CEO of Hana Financial Group, will represent his company as a sponsor of the competition.

A total of 240 athletes are competing. The South Korean players will train over the weekend before matches begin on Monday.

Meanwhile, a North Korean delegation representing the country’s largest labor federation will be in Seoul this weekend to play friendly football games with South Korean labor groups.

A group of 64 people led by Ju Yong-gil, chairman of the central committee of the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea, will arrive in the South using the road linking both countries along the west coast, the Unification Ministry said Thursday.

Both events fulfill promises in the Panmunjom Declaration signed between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their first summit in April.

Part of the agreement encourages the two Koreas to promote cooperation, exchanges, visits and contact at all levels to “rejuvenate the sense of national reconciliation and unity.”

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