The South Korean women's national football team players said Wednesday they had a "special feeling" when they sang the national anthem on North Korean soil before playing a qualifying match for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) competition.
South Korea opened the AFC Women's Asian Cup Group B qualifying tournament with a 10-0 victory over India at Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang. Before the match kickoff, the South Korean anthem was played at the stadium following the AFC rule. It was the first time that a South Korean anthem was heard in Pyongyang since September 2013 when the athletes from Seoul competed in the North Korean capital in a weightlifting competition.
"I was deeply moved when we sang the national anthem in Pyongyang," said forward Lee Geum-min who scored a hat trick against India. "But I also felt somewhat sad."
Midfielder Lee Min-a, who also put her name on the score sheet against India, said it was a special moment to sing the national anthem in North Korea. At the stadium, some 5,000 North Korean fans were present and they all stood up when the South Korean anthem started playing. The South Korean flag was also raised at Kim Il-sung Stadium for the first time.
"Before the match, we said to each other that we need to sing the national anthem louder than usual," she said. "Singing the national anthem is always special when you're representing the country, but today, it was really special."
South Korea's next match is against North Korea on Friday. The winner of this much-anticipated all-Korean showdown is expected to clinch the top spot in the group considering that neither the South nor the North are likely to lose to their low-ranked competitors.
North Korea are ranked No. 10 in the latest FIFA rankings, followed by South Korea (No. 17), Uzbekistan (No. 42), India (No. 56) and Hong Kong (No. 65). Only the group winner will advance to the 2018 Asian Cup in Jordan, which also doubles as the qualifying tournament for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.