FIFA President Sepp Blatter has praised South Korea’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup, saying that the sporting event has the power to unite North and South Koreans.
FIFA will announce the hosts for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups on December 2. South Korea is competing with Australia, Qatar, Japan and the United States for the 2022 tournament.
“I can say that with all my determination, Korea is a good bidding association and the bidding company for the World Cup 2022,” Blatter said at a joint news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. “Even a very good one. Not only good one – very good.”
North and South Korea remain in a state of conflict, divided by a heavily fortified border since the three-year Korean war ended in a truce with no peace treaty in 1953. Millions of Koreans still have family on the other side of the border, with virtually no way to contact them.
Lee said he and Blatter discussed how the World Cup could help promote peace on the Korean peninsula.
Blatter said footbal has the power to “make a step forward” in helping to unite people in the divided country.
“I will be very, very happy to use the power of the World Cup and the power of football to help solve this solution,” he said.
The chairman of South Korea’s World Cup bidding committee, Han Sung-joo, has said he envissages fielding three or four games in North Korea if South Korea won the bid.
“It would be a good opportunity to bring North Korea into the mainstream,” he told The Associated Press earlier this year. “Right now, North Korea is fairly isolated, and there’s still hatred between North and South Korea. This will contribute to both peace and the integration of Koreans both in North and South Korea.”
South Korea, which co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with Japan, became the first Asian country to reach the semi-finals of the tournament that year. During this year’s World Cup in South Africa, South Korea advanced to the round of 16 for the first time on foreign soil.
North Korea participated in the World Cup in South Africa for the first time since 1966.