Korea: South asks North to guarantee team safety at Women’s Asian Cup qualifier

March 21 – South Korea is taking steps to ensure the safety of its players as its national women’s team prepares to play North Korea.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said it had asked North Korea to provide assurances  ahead of next month’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualifier in Pyongyang.

“The government has asked North Korea to provide written assurances for the safety of South Korean football players,” the Yonhap agency quoted a ministry official as saying.

Group B qualifying games will be held in North Korea from April 3-11, with the two Koreas squaring off on April 7.

Amid heightened diplomatic tensions, any trip to the North requires the Seoul government’s approval, as well as the North’s consent.

If the women’s team are allowed to travel to North Korea, it would mark the first time that the two Koreas have played an official game in Pyongyang. Previously, the two countries have only played friendly matches in the North’s capital.

Earlier this month, a men’s Asian Cup qualifier between North Korea and Malaysia was postponed after the Malaysian FA asked for the game to be moved away from Pyongyang following a breakdown in relations.

The countries have become embroiled in a simmering row after Malaysia accused North Korea of assassinating Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of Pyongyang ruler Kim Jong Un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13.

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