APNewsBreak: South Korea sends World Cup bid plan to North

ROB HARRIS (AP Global Soccer Writer)
South Korea's Soyun Ji, center, is congratulated by teammates after scoring their 5th goal against Argentina during their Cup of Nations soccer game in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

South Korea's soccer leadership has sent a proposal to North Korea to jointly bid for the 2023 Women's World Cup and is awaiting a response.

Combining to stage the FIFA showpiece could be a significant move toward building peace on the Korean Peninsula, which remains technically at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The neighbors have been encouraged to bid by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, with the decision due to be taken in March 2020 by the governing body's ruling council.

Chung Mong-gyu, the president of South Korea's soccer association who sits on the FIFA Council, is pursuing the bid after gaining the initial support of his government.

''With regard to the possible joint bid with DPRK Football Association for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, we have sent our proposal to DPRK FA and are currently waiting to receive their official response,'' Chung said in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

South Korean soccer officials tend to communicate with their counterparts in the north through the East Asian Football Federation.

There is a March 15 deadline to submit an expression of interest to FIFA. The bidding registration would then have to be sent by April 16 and countries have until Oct. 4 to present bid books to Zurich-based FIFA.

With Australia, Colombia, Japan and South Africa also exploring bids, the 2023 Women's World Cup looks like being the most hotly-contested hosting contest since the tournament began in 1991.

FIFA has also imposed the most rigorous bidding regulations to date - emulating most of the bidding process last year for the men's World Cup that saw a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico win the right to stage the 2026 World Cup.

There will be an assessment of human rights and risk reports for all bidding nations, inspections of facilities and evaluation reports.

That could be a barrier to North Korea staging a World Cup, given concerns about human rights abuses, prison camps for dissidents, an absence of religious and speech freedoms.

A bid could also be hindered by the U.S.-led international sanctions that include restrictions on sporting equipment being sent to North Korea.

A summit between President Donald Trump and Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down last week in a dispute over how much sanctions relief Washington should provide Pyongyang in return for nuclear disarmament steps.

South Korea President Moon Jae-in has been actively pushing for reconciliation with the North. At summits over the past year, the Koreas agreed vowed to resume economic cooperation and to jointly bid to stage the 2032 Summer Olympics.


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