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Following Japan and South Korea’s cohosting of the World Cup soccer finals last summer, 36 prefectural governments have held or will hold 123 sports exchanges with South Korean teams in fiscal 2002, according to a survey conducted by the sports ministry.

Some 3,291 participants have taken part or will take part in these exchanges, which mostly involve friendly matches, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Fifty-three exchanges involve soccer, and eight apiece center on volleyball and track and field, and five apiece on baseball and kendo, the ministry said.

The most active of the 36 prefectures in hosting sports exchanges is Osaka, which has planned 17. Yamaguchi ranks second with 13, Ishikawa third with 10, and Hyogo fourth with eight, the ministry said.

After the end of the World Cup, which ran from May 31 to June 30, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung agreed to boost youth sports exchanges.

As for fiscal 2003, however, only about one-third of this year’s number of local governments said they have plans to host sports exchanges with South Korea, the ministry said.

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