Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will attend the final match of the World Cup soccer tournament as well as the closing ceremony in Yokohama on June 30, government sources said Saturday.

The Imperial couple will also attend Japan’s friendly match against Sweden at Tokyo’s National Stadium on May 25 to give the Japan national squad encouragement before the start of the tournament, which is being jointly hosted by Japan and South Korea, on May 31, the sources said.

As well as the Emperor and Empress, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung is scheduled to watch the final match at International Stadium Yokohama. Johannes Rau, president of Germany, which will host the next World Cup, may also attend the game, they said.

The sources said plans are also being discussed for the Imperial couple to watch one of Japan’s World Cup matches, against Belgium, Russia or Tunisia, but the friendly was chosen because the Emperor and Empress would have the opportunity to meet the Japanese players.

South Korea had requested that the Emperor attend the opening ceremony for the World Cup in Seoul, but Japan has been unwilling to agree, citing opposition among South Koreans over a number of thorny issues, including Japanese history school books that have been approved by Tokyo.

Relations deteriorated last year due to a row over the textbooks, which critics say gloss over Japan’s wartime atrocities in neighboring countries, as well as Koizumi’s visit to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine, dedicated to war criminals along with Japan’s war dead.

Prince Takamado, the Emperor’s cousin, and his wife, Princess Hisako, will visit South Korea to attend the opening ceremony. The prince is the honorary president of the Japan Football Association.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will also attend the opening ceremony.

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