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Labor groups from two Koreas plan to play ball

July 27,2018
A delegation from North Korea’s largest trade union federation will visit Seoul from Aug. 10 to 12 with two football teams to hold friendly games with South Korean labor groups, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the South’s two major umbrella labor groups, announced Thursday.

The KCTU said in a press release that it agreed with North Korea’s General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea to have 65 people from the North visit the South Korean capital next month as part of efforts to implement the Panmunjom Declaration signed between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their first summit on April 27.

A part of the declaration reads that the South and North agreed to encourage more active cooperation, exchanges, visits and contact at all levels in order to “rejuvenate the sense of national reconciliation and unity.”

The North has yet to compile a list for the delegation, the KCTU said, but the group will likely include members of the so-called All Korean Committee for Implementation of June 15 Joint Declaration, a state-backed group in the North formed to carry out agreements made in the first inter-Korean summit on June 15, 2000, between former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

Further explanation of the two North Korean “football teams” was not provided in the press release, and the KCTU did not immediately respond to calls for questions.

The North Korean delegation plans to arrive in the South by taking a road connecting both countries along the west coast on Aug. 10. It is scheduled to visit the headquarters of the KCTU and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, South Korea’s other major umbrella labor group.

The football friendly will take place at 4 p.m. on Aug. 11 at Sangam World Cup Stadium in Mapo District, western Seoul. Earlier that day, the North Koreans plan to visit the grave of Chun Tae-il, a major South Korean workers’ rights figure, in Namyangju, Gyeonggi. On their last day on Aug. 12, labor groups from both countries are scheduled to discuss issues of mutual interest.

The last time a football friendly was held between the two Koreas’ labor unions in South Korea was 2007 in Changwon, South Gyeongsang. North Korea hosted two such games, in 1999 and 2015 in Pyongyang. In another cross-border project, both Koreas on Wednesday exchanged the results of their search for candidates to attend a reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War set to take place in the North from Aug. 20 to 26.

Last month, both countries exchanged a list of potential participants and asked the other country to verify whether they were alive and willing to take part in the event. A final list will be compiled by Aug. 4.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]