06 November 2011

65 fans to join official tour for Japan's World Cup game in N. Korea

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A travel agency organizing a spectator tour for Japan's World Cup qualifier against North Korea on Nov. 15 said Friday 65 fans will travel on the tour to Pyongyang for the Group C clash.

Nishitetsu Travel, which is organizing the Japan Football Association's official tour, said it had 94 internet applications by Thursday evening's deadline and has started contacting the 65 spectators, who were selected based in order of applications and other factors.

The tour, which has been given special government approval and costs around 290,000 yen, will arrive in Pyongyang on Nov. 14 via Beijing and return to Japan's Haneda airport the day after the game.

Government officials said Wednesday arrangements were being made to send Foreign Ministry staff to North Korea to ensure the safety of Japanese supporters when they travel to Pyongyang.

According to the ministry, it would be the first time for ministry bureaucrats to visit North Korea since some accompanied then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on his trip there in May 2004.

The ministry staff will stay in a hotel in Pyongyang and use it as their base since Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic ties.

Staff from the ministry's Consular Affairs Bureau and Northeast Asia Division under the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau intend to negotiate with North Korean authorities to address contingency situations such as accidents involving Japanese who travel to North Korea for the qualifier.

The move followed Japan's decision to take an exceptional measure to allow members of the national team, accompanying reporters and team supporters who register for official tours organized by the JFA to go to North Korea.

As part of sanctions imposed following North Korea's missile launch in July 2006, Japan has asked its nationals to refrain from visiting North Korea and suspended travel by public servants.

With roughly 200 Japanese people including the media projected to enter North Korea, a government official called it "necessary to dispatch Foreign Ministry staff from the standpoint of protecting Japanese nationals."

The envisioned dispatch has prompted protests from opposition lawmakers who point to what they say is the danger of making such an exception when outstanding issues remain such as North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals and Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

(Mainichi Japan) November 5, 2011


  1. It's really sad to hear that there seems to be a lot of mistrust.

  2. It is sad that politics and football cannot be separated. This is of course an extreme but look all over the world. Israel has to play its games in Europe because half of the Asian countries consider it an enemy. Palestinian team sometimes travels to away games with reserve players when their main players cannot get travel documents. The US forbids travel to Cuba but 11 men kicking a ball get an exception if they face each other. Some club games such as the Celtic-Rangers game have caused deaths because of political hatred between sets of fans. Keep politics out of the stadiums, football should be UNITING people and not tearing them apart.

    I am sad North Korea cannot progress to the World Cup ; I don't support the regime but I know how much it would mean for the people who live a very hard life. Their team doing well would make them proud and maybe make contact with the outside world more possible bit by bit. For that reason alone, it's sad DPRK cannot qualify anymore.