South Korea highlights political unity in bid

AP, Wednesday 1 Dec 2010

South Korea highlighted the prospect of peace and a united Korea when it made its final appeal to stage the World Cup in 2022

South Korea prime minister

Dominating its half-hour presentation on the eve of the FIFA vote, the South Korean bid insisted that soccer had the power to bring people closer and would be an agent of political change to end the standoff between North and South on the divided peninsula.

South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik referenced the World Cup in South Africa, where both South and North Korea played, to highlight the prospect of unity.

“We saw that football has the power to bring people together, to end enmity and to spur reconciliation,” Kim said. “It gave us a vision that the World Cup in 2022 can be a celebration of peace for Korea and the world.”

FIFA Vice President Chung Mong-joon said the recent flare-up of violence on the dispute border that killed four South Koreans was only “the darkness before dawn.”

South Korea faces competition from the United States, Qatar, Australia and Japan to stage the 2022 edition. The country co-hosted the World Cup with Japan only eight years ago, a fact that could hurt its chances during Thursday’s vote.

Still, South Korea hopes that its political message will lure enough of the 22 members of FIFA’s executive committee to bring the event back.

The 1950-53 war between the Chinese-supported communist North and the U.S.-backed South ended in a truce and the two Koreas have remained divided by a heavily fortified border.

“We Koreans have never given up our dream that someday we will be reunited and see our united team,” former prime minister Lee Hong-koo told the meeting of FIFA officials.

And he counted on soccer’s spirit to bring both sides closer together through the 2022 bid.

“We need the power of sports, particularly the power of football. If we get World Cup in Korea in 2022, you will see a concerted effort” to bring peace to the region, Lee said.

The attack was the first since the 1950-53 Korean War to target civilians, causing an escalation of tensions between the two Koreas. But Chung said he was convinced it should not affect the bid.

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