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N. Korean footballer Jong Tae-se allowed to compete as S. Korean in Asia: official

All Headlines 09:10 February 01, 2013

SEOUL, Feb. 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korean football player Jong Tae-se, who recently signed with a South Korean club, will be allowed to compete as a South Korean player in Asian club matches, an official said Friday.

According to the official of the Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the K League Classic, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the continental governing body of football, has confirmed that it will recognize Jong's dual citizenship in competition.

Jong, 28, was born in Japan to a South Korean father and a North Korean mother. He attended pro-North Korean schools in Japan and has said that he considers himself North Korean.

After signing a deal with the Bluewings last month, Jong entered South Korea with a single-entry South Korean passport. He tried to downplay the significance of his possession of the passport, saying he will be South Korean while playing here and he believes Korea is one country.

"Through the Korea Football Association, we asked the AFC to clarify the situation on Jong Tae-se," the Suwon official said. "The AFC has replied that it will recognize Jong's dual citizenship."

According to the official, this means Jong will represent North Korea in international matches, as he has done in the past, but when Suwon plays in the AFC Champions League, a regional club competition, he will be a South Korean player.

Jong is the fourth North Korean to play in South Korea's first division competition. All three players before him were recognized as South Koreans in the league play.

K League Classic players must also register their nationality with the AFC when their clubs participate in the Champions League. And since Jong is listed as North Korean on the AFC, it would have created a confusing situation where Jong would count as a foreign player for Suwon during the Champions League, but as a South Korean during the K League Classic season.

Currently, South Korean pro clubs can each sign up to three foreign players, plus a fourth Asian player from an AFC member nation, such as North Korea, Australia and China.

And if Jong's nationality had been switched to South Korean in the AFC, he would no longer have been eligible to represent North Korea internationally.

The official said Jong has previously traveled to South Korea with a South Korean passport, before obtaining his North Korean passport.

Had he acquired his North Korean passport before the South Korean one, then Jong would have counted toward the Asian player in the foreign player quota, the official added.

The Suwon official noted that players from the old Soviet Union have also been granted dual citizenship by the AFC for continental competitions.

Jong made his professional debut with Kawasaki Frontale in Japan's J-League in 2006. He represented North Korea at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the country's first appearance at the quadrennial event in 44 years. Later in 2010, Jong moved to VfL Bochum in Germany's second division.

He joined a first-division German club, 1. FC Koln, in January 2012, but went scoreless as the team was relegated to the second division. Before signing with Suwon, Jong had not found the net in five games while struggling to get playing time.

He has been more prolific for North Korea in international play, having scored 15 goals in 28 games.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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