Two Koreas in row over flags and anthems

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Seoul, Feb 12: A controversy has been sparked off between North and South Korea over national anthems and flages in advance of a rare football math in Pyongyang next month.

The two sides will meet in the north's capital on march 26 in a regional qualifier for the 2010 world cup finals. It will be the first time the national teams have played each other in Pyongyang since a friendly was staged in 1990 to symbolise hopes for reunification. But the north at a preparatory meeting on February 5 refused to let South Korea display its flag and play its national anthem at the game, Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported.

"We were not able to communicate at all because north Koreans said they cannot play the South Korean anthem and hang the national flag, even though it is not a friendly match but an official match hosted by FIFA," it quoted Cho Jung-Yeon, vice president of the Korea Football Association, as saying.

"North Koreans said that they have never seen the south Korean flag hung up in the sky and heard the national anthem played on their soil in history, so they said they could never allow them," Cho added.

"But I said it is nonsense to use the Korean peninsula flag and Arirang instead, in a country-to-country match," Cho said.

North and South Korea marched together under the "unification" peninsula flag at the Asian games opening ceremony in Doha last December, where the traditional "Arirang" song was performed.

"We made it clear that we should use the national flag and anthem. Now the ball is in North Korea's court," Cho said.

"If we cannot reach an agreement, we cannot exclude the possibility of playing in a third country."

The communist North and capitalist south have remained technically at war since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean conflict and neither nation officially recognises the other's existence.

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