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