Koreas clash in football match

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The Independent Online
NORTH KOREA'S national trade union chairman Ryom Sun Gil called it "a great patriotic deed [and] a practical example of the working class", but it was a miracle that it happened at all.

Yesterday, during one of the peninsula's tensest weeks for some years, teams of workers from North and South Korea met in Pyonyang, the North Korean capital, for the first football match between the two countries for nine years.

The North Koreans scoredfirst and never lost their lead: the final score was 5-4. But the spirit among the workers seemed more friendly than competitive as players from both sides hugged, shook hands and patted each other on the back at the end of the game. A second match has been scheduled for today.

The matches were approved by both governments and were part of celebrations leading up to the 54th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan. Television broadcasts showed a packed stadium, complete with an enthusiastic cheerleader and a school band.

A North Korean television announcer said the match was a "big game for reunification", and in what seemed to be a reference to the United States, said "No team from anywhere will prevent the two Koreas from reuniting."

The matches are taking place as fears grow that North Korea is preparing to test-launch a long-range missile, believed to be capable of reaching parts of the US.