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S. Korea bans labor unions' visit to N. Korea for football match

South Korea Wednesday rejected an application by the two local umbrella labor unions to visit North Korea to discuss a football friendly in Pyongyang, citing its political nature.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions are seeking to hold a football game between workers of the two Koreas in May, hoping that the event could help promote peace on the divided peninsula.

The Unification Ministry said that it has decided not to allow the heads of the two labor unions to visit Kaesong in the North for a meeting with their North Korean counterparts as the move is seen as having "political" purposes.

"Seoul has decided not to approve their visits to the North on the belief that a meeting between the heads of the two Koreas' labor unions goes beyond 'innocent' exchanges of culture and sports," said an anonymous official at the ministry, noting the meeting will also likely address other issues than the sports exchanges.

The official said that the decision is not a disapproval for an envisioned football game.

"If they ask for a visit to the North for working-level contacts on a football friendly, the government plans to review it separately," he added.

The South's labor groups set up a task force to push for the friendly with their counterpart, the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea. Workers of the two Koreas previously had friendly matches in 1999 and 2007.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule as well as the division of the two Koreas.

It also marks the 15th anniversary of the June 15 joint declaration signed during the first inter-Korean summit between then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. (Yonhap)

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