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View more articles by Chad O'Carroll
Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
North Korean authorities have significantly restricted foreign access to Kim Il Sung Stadium next week for a much anticipated inter-Korean FIFA World Cup qualifier match, NK News has learned from multiple informed sources.
No South Korean journalists or spectators have yet been provided visas to watch the October 15 game, NK News understands, with the result being that the match is likely to go ahead without live TV coverage or South Korean fans able to cheer on their team.
The only foreign nationals who will be allowed inside the stadium will comprise South Korea’s national football team and a small number of diplomats, aid workers, and FIFA officials, NK News understands.
Unusually, even foreign tourists who will be visiting North Korea next week are to be prohibited from attending the match.
“It was really disappointing to hear the news,” said a visitor on condition of anonymity.
“(It’s) a great pity that such an attitude is taken to casually just shut tourists out of what should be a great chance to show the world that on the field of sports the North and South can meet just like other nations,” they added.
Foreign media are also unable to attend the fixture, despite NK News and several others engaging in weeks of emails to DPRK embassies around the world.
North Korea’s position regarding the match is, unsurprisingly, in breach of several aspects of FIFA’s protocol rules, which are provided to all countries hosting World Cup qualifier matches around the world.
Besides an obligation to facilitate media access from at least the opponent team’s country – South Korea – the rules stipulate that North Korea should also allocate “an appropriate number… of complimentary and purchasable tickets for the visiting association.”
The fact the visiting South Korean team is required to fly to North Korea via Beijing could also constitute a breach of the rules, which indicate that visitors should be allowed to book a charter flight directly to an airport no more than 150 kilometers from game stadium.
South Korea’s Korea Football Association (KFA) proposed to enter the North via the inter-Korean land-crossing, “before settling on the Beijing route,” Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency reported on Thursday.
FIFA failed to respond to a request for comment about the DPRK interpretation of their rules as of Friday evening Seoul time.
It’s not clear if the restrictions have only been afforded to the DPRK’s South Korean guests, a long-time national rival, or whether it’s a policy being implemented throughout all FIFA fixtures in Pyongyang involving foreign countries.
When Lebanon visited the North in early September, the match was also notable for featuring no live broadcast coverage – indicating neither Lebanese or foreign media likely took part.
North Korea’s state-run Korea Central Television (KCTV) is not known for having the capacity to conduct field-based live sports coverage via satellite relay.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News