Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jeju Islanders embrace visiting DPRK footballers

South Korean residents of Jeju Island have embraced the young men of the North Korean U-17 football team who are staying for one-month's training ahead of the FIFA U-17 World Cup being played in South Korea in August. While North Korean officials keep contact with locals to a minimum, this hasn't stopped the islanders from delivering presents to the youths, including boxes of Hallabong specialty citrus. "We are preparing more gifts for when they leave for Gwangyang in South Jeolla Province on 31 March," said Kim Jin-seok, director of the sports industry for the Jeju provincial government, said. "Their visit here is a precious chance to promote that Jeju Island is a good place for international meetings or sports events," he said.

"Many sports-related associations and organizations sent various gifts to us to deliver to them."Local government officials and civil activists, who have done various activities for the unification of the two Koreas, hope their past amiable attitude will help boost friendship at the local level. Civil activists in Jeju have shipped about 1,000 tons of citrus to North Korea annually since 2002. The subtropical fruits cannot grow in North Korea, Yonhap reported.

Meanwhile, ranking officials from the Korea Football Association are also scheduled to dine with the North Korean squad KFA official said. "Regardless of the political situation on the Korean Peninsula, we are treating them with hospitality and trying not to offend them. That is also the way we treat special guests," a Jeju government official said.

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