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 April 22, 2002 | 1835 IST

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World Cup supremo slams Japanese PM's shrine visit

South Korea's World Cup supremo Chung Mong-Joon accused Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of destroying efforts to successfully co-host the event in less than 40 days.

Chung, a vice president of FIFA, football's international governing body, said Koizumi's visit to a controversial Tokyo war shrine on Sunday had dealt a new blow to the awarding of the event to the rival neighbours.

The World Cup starts on May 31 in Seoul and ends on June 30 with the final in the Japanese city of Yokohama. FIFA partly awarded the event to the two neighbours in a bid to help them overcome past hostility.

But in a statement, Chung said "it directly breached the purpose and spirit of the co-hosting of the World Cup finals when Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visited Yasukuni Shrine on April 21."

The shrine honours some Japanese war criminals and visits there by Japanese leaders produce instant condemnation by its neighbours.

"It is very regretable that efforts by South Korea and Japan to set up a partnership through co-hosting the World Cup finals have been undermined by Koizumi's visit to the shrine," Chung said. "With the World Cup finals to open in a month or so, this disappoints our public who wished to construct future oriented relations with Japan."

The two organising committees have argued over which country should be mentioned first on tickets and other minor issues. But FIFA has generally praised their preparations.

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