South Korea's World Cup bid gets North Korean nod
North Korea striker Jong Tae Se is enthusiastic about South Korea's bid to host the 2022 World Cup, and about the idea that some games could be held north of the 38th parallel.
Jong, who plays for Kawasaki Frontale in Japan's J-League, is known to fans as the People's Rooney — a nod to England striker Wayne Rooney.
"As a national team player of North Korea, I support the bid of South Korea for the 2022 World Cup," Jong told the Associated Press.
Jong, who was born and raised in Japan but educated in the North Korean system and holds a North Korean passport, believes that hosting the tournament on the divided peninsula would contribute to peace between the North and South. Especially if, as has been suggested by the bidding committee, two or three games could be held in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
"It may not be easy politically to be united, but sport can make people united and can contribute to world peace, peace in East Asia and peace on the Korean peninsula."
Jong is a popular player in the South and has appeared in television commercials along with South Korea's Manchester United star Park Ji-sung.
Winning bid to be chosen Dec. 2
The United States, Australia, England, Japan, Russia, plus the Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium joint bids, have applied to host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. Qatar and South Korea are bidding for 2022 only.
The two winning bids will be chosen by the soccer's world governing body, FIFA, on Dec. 2.
North Korea is preparing for a first appearance at the World Cup since 1966 and the idea of being part of the 2022 tournament is an attractive one for 26-year-old Jong.
"If some World Cup matches could be held in Pyongyang then it would be an historic occasion. It is beyond our wildest dreams and I would be happy and all Korean people would be happy," Jong said. "They are already excited about the World Cup in South Africa, having a World Cup on home soil would be something else."
South Korea co-hosted the 2002 tournament along with Japan and famously reached the semifinal. Jong believes that playing at home could have a similar effect on his team.
"It was impressive watching South Korea reach the last four back in 2002, and if North Korea also has home advantage then we could perform well also."