KFA chief’s visit to North Korea raises hope for soccer friendlies

September 16, 2015
Chung Mong-gyu (Yonhap)

Chung Mong-gyu (Yonhap)

By Nam Hyun-woo

Korea Football Association (KFA) President Chung Mong-gyu will visit North Korea to attend the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) Executive Committee meeting this weekend, raising hopes for football exchanges between the two Koreas.

Chung will leave for Pyongyang, Friday, through Beijing for the 46th EAFF meeting scheduled for Saturday to discuss the East Asian Cup in August and other issues of the regional body.

Chung is one of the three EAFF vice presidents. After attending the meeting, Chung will return to Seoul, Monday.

It will mark the first visit by a South Korean football body chief to the North since 2000 when then-KFA President Chung Mong-joon visited Pyongyang.

His visit came amid the two Koreas’ reconciliatory mood after their recent joint agreement to arrange reunions of families separated by the Korean War.

President Park Geun-hye also stressed the importance of sportsin enhancing inter-Korean exchanges in her Liberation Day speech. Against this backdrop, expectations are high that Chung and his North Korean counterparts may talk about resuming home-and-away football matches between the South and North.

The home-and-away event originated with the Seoul-Pyongyang Football Matches in the 1920s to 1940s when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule.

After the two Koreas were separated, the name of the event was changed to Unification Football Matches and was held in October 1990. In 2000, the two Koreas agree to hold the event on a regular basis, but failed to follow through.

On Aug. 14, 2005, the two Koreas held the event at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, and the South won 3-0, with Chung Kyung-ho, Kim Jin-yong and Park Chu-young scoring.

The two Koreas have faced each other several times since, most recently in China in last month’s East Asian Cup, at competitions such as World Cup qualifiers, but the two have not faced each other with the stated cause of unification since 2005.

The KFA has been pushing for exchanges this year, which marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and saw the EAFF meeting as an opportunity for its efforts to pick up speed.

The KFA will focus on women’s and youth football, in which the North retains competitive, and seeks to expand the exchange into men’s football.

“North Korea is strong in women’s and youth football,” said an official at the KFA. “Though further details are to be determined, we expect there will be talk about inter-Korean football exchanges if Chung meets North Korean officials.”

Reportedly, should there be progress in Chung’s talks, an exchange would likely be held in late October or early November.