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Interview with Chung Mong-joon (Vice-President of FIFA)
by R. Sanborn Brown
Translated excerpts from an interview with Chung Mong-joon, vice-president of FIFA and Co-Chairman of the Korean World Cup Organizing Committee, which appeared in the January, 2002, edition of the Japanese periodical Chuo Koron.
Chuo Koron (CK): Japan and Korea were chosen, at the end of May 1996, to co-host the 2002 World Cup. At the time, many Japanese who had wanted Japan alone to host the tournament felt that Korea had thrown its name into the hat at the last momentand as a result there were feelings of dissatisfaction and some criticism of Korea.
Chung Mong-joon (CMJ): It is true that Japan's organizing committee began work two years before the South Korean committee got started. And, if you include the time from which Japan made initial contact with FIFA, it comes to some five years prior Korea's involvement in the upcoming World Cup. However, at the time Japan made its bid, the Japanese national team had never participated in a World Cup.
CMJ: South Korea had to date made it to four World Cup Finals (1954, 1986, 1990, and 1994). If the Cup was going to be held in Asia for the first time, it was only natural that it would take place in South Korea. If the Cup had gone to Japan, it would have caused great stress among the Korean peopleand this would have grown into a larger scale problem. Co-hosting was the best solution. Koreans were also bitter at first about co-hosting; now many see that it was for the best.
CK: There is little time until the World Cup kicks off in May.
In order to stage a successful tournament, bilateral relations between
Japan and Korea must be improved.
CK: Since the World Cup was awarded to Japan and South Korea,
various types of exchanges among ordinary people have increasedand
with them, mutual understanding has deepened. At the final qualifying
match between Japan and Korea leading up to France 1998, which was held
at Jamsil Stadium, Korean supporters had prepared and hung banners which
read, "On the road to France together." The change in mood from
previous fixtures was palpable. Before, Korean fans were bloodthirsty
any time Japan came to play. From a soccer perspective, how do you think
then that the two nations can develop and evolve together henceforth?
CK: On a different topic, there is great interest and concern
about whether Japan's Emperor will attend the Opening Match in Seoul
on May 31.
CK: Another issue of concern is North Korea. Whenever you have
had the opportunity, Mr. Chung, you have pushed for some of the matches
to be held in Pyongyang. Is this a possibility?
CK: Is there any chance of a joint North-South (Korea) team?
The sixth son of the founder of the Hyundai Group, Chung Mong Joon studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University. Chung was CEO at Hyundai Industries Co. before being elected to the National Assembly.
Chung, 52, is a possible contender for the Presidency of Korea and was the prime mover behind Korea's bid to host the 2002 World Cup.
The Soccerphile World Cup 2002 Archives
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