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German FIFA official, politicians to visit North Korea ahead of Women's World Cup

All Headlines 09:53 March 30, 2011

BERLIN, March 29 (Yonhap) -- A senior German official at the international governing body of football, along with German journalists and politicians, will travel to North Korea this week as part of their tours to participating countries at an international women's tournament in the European nation this summer.

The German Football Association announced Tuesday that Theo Zwanziger, its president and a member of FIFA's Executive Committee, and Steffi Jones, head of the organizing committee for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, will head the delegation to Pyongyang from Thursday to Sunday. They will meet North Korean officials and discuss further cooperation for the future.

"The Women's World Cup this summer, with its inclusive and global power, will again provide a wonderful opportunity to contribute to international understanding," Zwanziger was quoted as saying on the association's homepage. "Football attracts everyone, regardless of skin color, age, national origin, sex, religion or political affiliation."

The trip is part of the "Welcome Tour" to 16 nations that will compete at the Women's World Cup. The delegation has canceled its trip to Japan, which is reeling from the devastating earthquake, tsunami and ensuing radiation scare.

North Korea is paired with the United States, Colombia and Sweden in Group C of the Women's World Cup. The communist state is ranked eighth in the world in women's football.

Zwanziger also said he was looking forward to having "good discussions with our friends of the North Korean Football Association," adding that he hoped the framework of a cooperation agreement between the German and North Korean football organizations would lead to long-term ties.

The German delegation will also include journalists and politicians, including Claudia Roth, a co-chair of the Green Party in Germany. Politicians have planned meetings with North Korean government representatives, the German football body said.

"We want to try to build bridges for a cultural exchange," Roth said. "We will also address the tensions on the Korean Peninsula ... and human rights. Because the circumstances are so difficult, we are hoping that football will open doors to people."

Germany and North Korea established diplomatic relations in March 2001. According to the German Federal Foreign Office, German governmental and private humanitarian organizations have offered "several million euros" in aid to North Korea over the years.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, there have been no visits of government delegations at the ministerial level to Germany or North Korea. But members of the German Bundestag have previously visited North Korea, according to the Federal Foreign Office.

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