Political tensions make South Korea`s World Cup bid look fragile

Seoul: Taking the World Cup back to South Korea in 2022, 20 years after it was jointly staged there with Japan, would again present soccer`s governing body FIFA with dilemmas over the fractured and difficult relationship between South and North Korea.

As if to remind soccer`s power-brokers that North and South Korea are still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty, tension escalated again this week.

North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells at a South Korean island off the North`s coast, killing at least two civilians and two soldiers. The action prompted return fire from the South and the dispatch of a United States aircraft carrier group to Korean waters.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter had previously praised the South Korean tender for potentially having the power to reunite the divided peninsula and help to ease political tensions in the region.

"I will be very, very happy to use the power of the World Cup and the power of football to help solve this (problem)," Blatter said on a recent visit to South Korea.

Inter-Korean relations also suffered earlier this year when a South Korean warship was torpedoed off the west coast, near the disputed border.

Whether FIFA, or soccer or the World Cup, can do anything to bring the two nations closer together is an unanswerable question.

However there is no doubt that the country`s astonishing run to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals as co-hosts -- and the frenzied support of their "Red Devil" fans -- added a fairytale twist to that tournament and proved the World Cup could unite people.

Bureau Report

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