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Men's Football South Korea calls for North Korea to be punished following World Cup qualifier

THE South Korean football association said yesterday that it has requested that North Korea be punished for blocking rival fans and media from attending a World Cup qualifier between the countries at an empty stadium in Pyongyang.

The Seoul-based KFA’s letter to the Asian Football Confederation argues that the North failed to uphold rules requiring host nations to grant visas and entries for travelling supporters and media without discrimination, KFA official Shin Jung Hoon said.

The KFA did not share the actual letter with journalists.

The game, which was cast into media darkness because North refused a live broadcast from Kim Il Sung Stadium, ended in a 0-0 draw. South Korean players later said the North Korean players were unnecessarily physical and verbally abusive during the match.

North Korea in recent months has suspended virtually all co-operation with the South amid deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the United States, and ignored the South’s calls for discussions on media coverage and allowing South Korean fans to attend ahead of Tuesday’s game.

The letter “expressed regret over North Korea’s failure to separate sports and politics and said its actions over the match should be reviewed for discipline,” Shin said. “We also called for AFC efforts to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon Chul, Seoul’s point man on North Korea, told lawmakers on Thursday that the way the North handled the game was “very disappointing” and reflected the standstill in inter-Korean relations.

During qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, North Korea chose to host games against South Korea in Shanghai, refusing to hoist the South Korean flag and play the South Korean anthem on its soil.

The fate of the game in Pyongyang was uncertain until last month when the AFC informed the KFA that the North decided it would host its Group H match against the South as scheduled.

Group H also includes Lebanon, Turkmenistan and Sri Lanka.

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