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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
The South Korean women’s soccer team will play its North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang for the first time since the division of the Korean Peninsula, the Korea Football Association (KFA) announced on Sunday.
After the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) held the official draw for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Saturday, South Korea was grouped with North Korea, Uzbekistan, Hong Kong and India.
The final qualifying round will be held in Pyongyang from April 3 to 12, 2017. The DPRK is hosting all preliminary matches of group B, the KFA said.
The two Koreas will play on April 7, according to the official website of AFC.
The winners of each four groups will qualify for finals in Jordan, which will be held from April 7 to 22, 2018, which also serve as the Asia qualifiers for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
“We plan to have a discussion with the Ministry of Unification, but we haven’t set a date,” an official at the KFA, who wished to remain anonymous, told NK News on Monday.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MoU) said on Monday the match should be dealt with “in accordance with international regulations and procedures for competition as a member of the Asian Football Confederation.”
“The issues, including [sending a] cheering party, will be reviewed as soon as we get a proposal from the Korean Football Association (KFA),” MoU spokesperson Jeong Joon-hee told reporters during a news briefing.
But the Unification Ministry declined to comment on whether it would accept the KFA’s suggestions for the match’s logistics.
“The North has its own view, and the Korean Football Association has a plan, so [we] think it is a matter to be decided later on, after coordination,” Jeong added.
The South Korean and North Korean men’s national teams held a match at Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in Pyongyang on October 11, 1990.
The South Korean women’s soccer team had joint training with North Korean women footballers at the time in Pyongyang but did not play each other.
The head coach of the current South Korean women’s national football team, Yoon Deok-yeo, also went to Pyongyang as part of South Korean men’s national team back in 1990, according to the KFA.
“Personally, it’s the second time I visit Pyongyang. I lost 1-2 [to the North] at that time, but I will do my best with the team and get good results,” the KFA quoted Yoon as saying.
South Korean women’s national football team is considered to be weaker than their North Korean counterparts, with one win, two ties and 14 losses recorded. The KFA said on Sunday the preliminary match with the North would take place under “unfavorable conditions.”
Yoon also said the women’s national team would “be placed in a difficult situation.”
“It will not be easy for us as North Korea has a home-field advantage,” Yoon said in the interview with the KFA. “If you accept it and make more thorough preparations, we will be able to play a great game.”
In 2005, the men’s teams of the two Koreas faced off in Jeonju, South Korea as part of the East Asian Football Championships – their first match in over a decade – and played again ten days later in a friendly in Seoul.
The South and the North played Asia’s third round of regional qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa on March 26, 2008 in Shanghai, despite the qualifications being scheduled to alternate between Seoul and Pyongyang.
In March 7, 2008, the KFA accused the North of prohibiting South Korean fans from flying the South Korean national flag and singing the ROK’s national anthem in Pyongyang, as well as limiting the number of South Korean reporters and fans.
After the two sides had failed to come to an agreement, FIFA agreed to hold the match in Shanghai. Since then, the two Koreas have played three times on the Peninsula.
Featured Image: Korea Football Association (KFA)