S. Korea to fork out US$250,000 for N. Korea’s football squad


South Korea will spend about $250,000 to foot the bill for the training of North Korea’s visiting under-17 football squad, the Unification Ministry said Tuesday.

In a show of thawing ties between the two Koreas after a recent North Korean denuclearization deal, the squad arrived earlier Tuesday on the southern island of Jeju for a month of training. The North Koreans are preparing for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which South Korea will host this summer.

“We decided to tap into the inter-Korean cooperation fund to pay for their accommodations and others,” a ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity.

It is the first visit by a North Korean sports team to the South since a squad took part in an East Asian regional football competition in August 2005.

The 23 players and nine coaches arrived from a training session in the Chinese city of Kunming, and the squad is scheduled to play friendly matches against university and high school teams before meeting the South Korean under-17 team on March 30. 

South and North Korea agreed to resume joint projects, including South Korea’s rice and fertilizer aid, at their first ministerial meeting in seven months.

They are to hold family reunions via video link at the North’s Mount Geumgang resort on March 27-29. Face-to-face reunions for families separated by the sealed border since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War will be held on May 9-14.

Inter-Korean relations have warmed considerably since the 2000 summit of their leaders, but tension persists since the rival states are still technically in a state of war, as no peace treaty was signed at the end of the Korean War.

South Korea suspended its food and fertilizer aid to North Korea after it conducted missile tests in July. A possible resumption of the aid was blocked due to the North’s nuclear bomb test in October.

The latest six-party talks — involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia — opened in Beijing on Monday as the U.S. agreed to release $25 million in North Korean frozen funds at a Macau-based bank, a stumbling block to North Korea’s first steps toward nuclear dismantlement.


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