SHANGHAI (Reuters) - North and South Korea, states technically still at war, drew 1-1 on Wednesday in a World Cup qualifying match moved to Shanghai for political reasons.
Soccer’s world governing body FIFA last month moved the match, which was originally scheduled to take place in Pyongyang, because the North refused to play the South’s anthem and raise the flag of its foe at a stadium in its capital.
North Korea struck first in the Asian Group Two game when Hong Yong-jo converted a penalty awarded in the 64th minute after a foul in the area by South Korean captain Kim Nam-il.
South Korea equalised five minutes later when Ki Sung-yueng controlled a long pass on his chest and then slid a low shot past diving North Korean goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk.
The result left North Korea top of the group with four points from two matches after they won 2-1 away to United Arab Emirates in their first group match last week.
South Korea are second with a point after one match. United Arab Emirates host Saudi Arabia in the group later on Wednesday.
South Korea were without forward Park Ji-sung because his club Manchester United would not release him for international duty, fearing he could aggravate a lingering knee injury.
The stadium in Shanghai was mostly empty.
North Korea, as the home team, tripled some ticket prices compared to an earlier qualifier played in the same stadium so they could keep out opposition fans based in the Chinese city for business and to study, South Korean soccer officials said.
The two Koreas, whose 1950-53 war ended in a ceasefire and not a peace treaty, had already played out two goalless draws in the third round of Asian qualifying. The match set for Pyongyang in March was also moved to Shanghai for political reasons.
South Korea, looking for a seventh straight trip to the World Cup finals, played the anthem of its Cold War rival and raised its flag when the North came to Seoul in June.
The top two in the two groups that make up the fourth round of Asian qualifying earn places in the 2010 finals in South Africa, with another spot available to the fifth-placed team if they can overcome Oceania champions New Zealand in a playoff.
Analysts said the North’s communist ideology could not allow for a patriotic display by South Koreans in its capital when it has been telling the masses its capitalist neighbours yearn for unification under the North’s communist banner.
“The biggest weakness or the Achilles heal on their whole world view is that the South Koreans are proud of their own state and do not want to live under Kim Jong-il,” said Brian Myers, a specialist in the North’s state ideology at Dongseo University in the South.
“As soon as they allow South Korean fans to come to North Korea and cheer for their own team and wave their own flags,, the North Korean leaders come under pressure to explain that to their own people.”
Writing by Jon Herskovitz in Seoul, editing by Ken Ferris