Seoul unsure if North Korea will air World Cup qualifier

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said Thursday it's unclear if North Korea will allow a live broadcast when it hosts the South's national soccer team for a World Cup qualifier in Pyongyang next Tuesday.

Seoul's Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said the North has been ignoring South Korean calls for discussions on broadcasting the game live and allowing South Korean spectators to attend.

"There has been no particular progress on the issues of (sending South Korean) cheering squads or providing broadcast coverage, so they won't be easy," since there's only a few days left until the game, said a ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity during a background briefing to reporters.

The North in recent months has severed virtually all diplomatic activity and cooperation with the rival South amid a standstill in nuclear negotiations with the United States, while ramping up missile tests in an apparent effort to pressure Washington and Seoul.

South Korea's Korea Football Association said last month it had been informed by the Asian Football Confederation that North Korea will host its Group H game against the South as scheduled.

The game would be the first competitive meeting between the national men's teams in the North Korean capital, although the North hosted the South for a friendly there in 1990.

During qualification 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.

But South Korea's women's team played in Pyongyang in an Asian Cup qualifier in 2017, and North Korean TV broadcast an edited version of the game days later.

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