Soccer matches between South and North Korean workers were held at Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium on Thursday.
While the soccer matches were aimed at promoting better inter-Korean relations, the June 15 South Korean Committee expressed the need for more openness towards South Korean government’s policy on cultural interchange.
“We will actively participate to promote Korea’s peace and unification,” said South Korean worker’s soccer team representative, before taking the flight to Pyongyang.
“Many worried that the soccer matches would never be held due to the political situation. But the August 25 Agreement between South and North Korea showed the possibility of a path towards this match between workers from both sides. We hope that our match brings the new opportunity for inter-Korean relations.”
The South Korean soccer team was composed of the two biggest South Korean workers unions, the Federation of Korea Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Both South Korean unions played the games against the North’s two unions on Thursday.
According to North Korean state media, both soccer matches were won by North Korean teams.
This is not the first time soccer match of its kind between the two countries, with the event occurring before in both 1999 and 2007. The last event was held in Changwon in South Korea.
However, for eight years such matches could not be held as inter-Korean relations worsened from 2010 after the sinking of the South Korea navy ship the Cheonan. The subsequent South Korean measures and sanctions limited further interactions.
The recent upturn however may have opened the door for more events of this kind.
“Since the August 25 Agreement, there have been more frequent signs of private exchanges between South and North Korea,” Ministry of Unification (MoU) spokesperson Jeong Joon-hee said on October 28.
But Choi Euna, the director of June 15 South Korean Committee believes the South Korean government should open more doors towards frequent inter-Korean interactions.
“This soccer match was supposed to be held on May 1, but the South Korean government denied our request at that time,” Choi told NK News.
Choi also expressed frustration that the South Korean government still tends to deny or control the exchange requests from many other South Korean civil organizations.
“Except this soccer match between South and North Korean workers, many social and cultural exchanges are still blocked by the South Korean government. More inter-Korean exchange requests should be accepted without discrimination and control by government.”
On the other hand, the MoU expressed their firm stance on the need to regulate the exchanges between civilians, as they are responsible for any unforeseen outcomes.
“The civil exchanges between South Korea and North Korea have been progressing,” the MoU told NK News.
“Many religious groups such as South Korean Buddhist monks and catholic priests have already visited North Korea to promote cultural exchanges. (However) many civilian organizations have contacted the MoU for permission … but we have to scrutinize their plans as each and every one falls under the South Korean government’s responsibility.”
*Featured image: IMG_0500 by Nasya Bahfen on 2015-01-14 05:42:00
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