• Kyodo


The cochairman of South Korea’s 2002 World Cup Organizing Committee expressed hope Thursday that the Emperor will attend the event’s opening ceremony in Seoul.

In a news conference for foreign correspondents, Chung Mong Joon, who is also vice president of soccer’s world governing body FIFA, said, “it will be conforming with the spirit of cohosting (the Cup) for the two heads of state to attend the opening ceremony.”

Chung, also chairman of South Korea’s National Football Association, called on both nations to strive for an atmosphere that would enable the Emperor to be in the stands for the kickoff of the World Cup finals.

An Imperial visit to South Korea would be highly sensitive because strong anti-Japanese sentiment remains in South Korea over Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

At Thursday’s news conference, held one year before the World Cup finals kick off, Chung raised concerns about transportation between Japan and South Korea during the finals.

“I can tell you there are almost no problems in our preparations,” he said. “But there seems to be one problem I am focusing on these days — transportation between Japan and (South) Korea.”

He said a sharp increase in the number of flights between South Korea and Japan will be needed to handle the 400,000 visitors expected in South Korea and the same number anticipated in Japan.

“It is important that airport authorities and governments in both countries develop a plan as soon as possible to provide convenient and frequent flights between and among the various cities in (South) Korea and Japan,” Chung said.

Currently, there are 87 flights per week between Seoul and Tokyo.

Asked if it is feasible to form a unified Korean team for the World Cup finals, Chung said the issue should be considered only in the context of improving the South Korean team’s performance.

South Korea was thrashed 5-0 by France in the opening game of the Confederations Cup in South Korea on Wednesday.

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