Few Expect Improved Ties From N. Korea As Women's National Football Team Visits Seoul
The North Korean women's football team arrived in Seoul, South Korea for a regional tournament on Thursday, and while "some see the visit as a sign of easing tensions few are putting any faith in sports diplomacy," according to Ju-min Park of REUTERS. South Korea is scheduled to face its "bitter rivals from the North" in the four-nation Women's East Asian Cup at Seoul's World Cup stadium on Sunday. China and Japan are the other two nations competing. While most other aspects of cross-border cooperation "have been frozen," sport "seems to be one area in which the North has found some common ground with its neighbour." Institute of the Humanities for Unification from Konkuk University Professor Jeon Young-sun said that "some significance could be attached to the visit of the women's team but the relationship had to improve before progress could be made." Jeon: "It (the visit) can be considered meaningful but in the middle of a lull in South-North Korea relations, politics are likely to impact sports, not the other way." Seoul's North Korean defectors' club head Kwak Moon-wan said that there "was little hope that sport could be used as a vehicle to close the ideological gap." Kwak, who fled the North and settled in Seoul in '03 said, "It would be very significant if North Korea were to let South Koreans play on its soil and let them fly their flag and play their national anthem. But until that happens, sports can't be used for diplomacy between here and there" (REUTERS, 7/17).