SINGAPORE (Reuters) - If South Korea win the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, they plan to offer North Korea the right to host a few games to help ease tension between the two neighbors, bid chairman Han Sung-joo said on Wednesday.
“It (hosting the World Cup) will contribute greatly to not only the football game itself but to the international situation in and around the Korean peninsula,” Han told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday.
“We have plans to arrange a couple of games, maybe two or three games to be played in the northern part of Korea.”
Tensions between the two foes rose again last week after a South Korean navy ship sank in the disputed Yellow Sea border off the west coast on Friday, with reports the North may have been involved although that was later ruled out.
Han said ties in sport, especially soccer, could help the two countries become closer.
“We don’t know exactly what the situation will be by the year 2022, we might be a unified country or we might still be a divided country, either way it will be a good opportunity to bring North Korea into the mainstream of the world and it will contribute good relations between north and south.”
The hosting of World Cup matches would help the impoverished North, who will play in their first World Cup finals for 44 years in June.
North Korea has come under mounting pressure to end a more than one-year boycott of international talks to end its efforts to build a nuclear arsenal.
The tensions have spread to the football sides after the South beat the North 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier last year.
North Korea complained to world governing body FIFA that their players had suffered vomiting, diarrhoea and headaches as a result of poisoning by the South, a claim rejected by the south.
But Han was confident that the offer of hosting matches could go someway to help repair relationships.
“We have not discussed this matter in any official way and I don’t expect the North Korean football people to be able to say anything authoritative about this but we will have plenty of time between this year and 2022 regarding the collaboration,” Han said.
Korea and Qatar are bidding to host the 2022 event with Australia, England, Japan, Russia, United States and the joint bids of Belgium/Netherlands and Spain/Portugal bidding for 2018 and/or 2022 with the decision on the both hosts being made in December.
DOING IT OURSELVES
Han also rejected a claim that it was too soon for South Korea to host another World Cup after they jointly held the 2002 event with Japan.
“It looks like it is too soon... but it will be 20 years apart. It will be a whole new game than 2002 and we are emphasizing that it will be our first bona fide full World Cup if we can get it.
“Doing it ourselves, we will have greater responsibility but also greater opportunity to accomplish a more coherent and efficient and much more focused World Cup that we have seen before.”
Should South Korea be chosen, Han believes they can set an example for emerging countries to host major international events.
“It would be giving a message that a country that came out of war, under development and division can become a very successful developed and capable country and provide a World Cup that contributes to regional and world peace.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar
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