A football hiccup

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A football hiccup

South Korea and North Korea held the first men’s football match on North Korean soil in almost three decades. But South Koreans were unable to watch the 0-0 draw of the FIFA World Cup qualifying match held at Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang on Tuesday. Live broadcasting was not permitted, neither was the entry of broadcasters from South Korea. North Korea also refused to provide video clips before the South Korean team went home. They did not even bother to explain why.

The South Korean national team had to settle with the video its head received on their way home. The audience here will have to settle with watching the first inter-Korean game in North Korea since a friendly match in 1990 after the fact. Such an outdated way of coverage is unthinkable in a country that enjoys high-definition live feeds of any games across the world through its 5G network.

North Koreans have been blaming the South for the little progress in lifting international sanctions or on denuclearization talks with the United States. Pyongyang has been upping its saber-rattling and missile provocations. It has even violated the FIFA rules and sportsmanship for political reasons.

Yet Seoul officials have stayed all-understanding. The Moon Jae-in administration has not officially protested. Officials only made mild complaints through FIFA or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). They only pleaded for entry of South Korean fans and government officials to use the momentum to revive an amicable mood between the two countries and inter-Korean dialogue. Keeping up a dialogue mood is important, but unfairness should not be left unspoken. The national team was forced to indirectly fly to Pyongyang via Beijing and play even without any audience or fans from home. We may just have to thank North Korea for sending our football team back home safely.

The Moon administration has placed North Korean affairs as top priority. But all it got was sneers and disgrace. Senior North Korean officials came for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics last year and sent a North Korean team to the winter games. At the time, they needed to make a reconciliatory gesture to avoid a military clash with the United States. North Korea once again has proved to be selfish and unreliable.

How can South Korea think of co-hosting the Olympics with such a treacherous counterpart?

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 16, Page 30
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