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(LEAD) S. Korea OKs trip by young athletes to N. Korea for soccer event

All News 11:39 August 09, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout)

SEOUL, Aug. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has approved a trip by a group of young athletes to North Korea to take part in an international youth soccer event to be held next week, the unification ministry said Thursday.

A total of 151 people, including athletes, journalists and other staff members, will leave for Pyongyang on Friday by using a western land route, according to a ministry official.

They will join the youth soccer event to be held from Aug. 13-18. Six countries -- the two Koreas, China, Russia, Uzbekistan and Belarus -- will send eight teams.

Known as the Ari Sports Cup, the U-15 event was first held in South Korea's border town of Yeoncheon in 2014. This year's event will mark the fourth of its kind.

It is the first time for such a large team of civilians to cross into the North by using a land route since the Moon Jae-in government took office in May last year. Many previous such trips took place via China.

"We hope to see more direct trips between the South and the North," the official said. "It will take less time and money than traveling via a third country and also contribute to boosting exchanges."

In an effort to honor sanctions on Pyongyang, the government will allow the payment of relevant expenses related to accommodation and food to be made to the North only after the lifting of the restrictions, the official said.

The unification ministry also approved a trip by a group of North Koreans to South Korea to participate in an inter-Korean workers' soccer match on Saturday, which was organized by major labor organizations here, the official said.

The 64-member North Korean delegation, led by Ju Yong-gil, head of the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea, will stay here for three days from Friday, he added.


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