A peninsula divided by war and political tensions, the neighbouring countries have played against each other on a number of occasions since first meeting on a football pitch in 1978.
But a game in Pyongyang, capital of the north and seat of WPK government headed by Kim Jong-un, has been so rare that it has only happened once before, and that was back in 1990. Other ‘home games’ against South Korea have typically been played in China or Japan instead.
The last encounter in Pyongyang 29 years ago was a friendly, making this the first ever competitive fixture between the two in the north's capital, and therefore a landmark moment.
Football World Cup qualifier between North and South Korea kicks off in Pyongyang with no live broadcast, no South Korean fans and no international media in attendancehttps://t.co/eJ7H67B6J0— AFP news agency (@AFP) October 15, 2019
@FIFAcom President Gianni Infantino (C) arrives in Pyongyang pic.twitter.com/AncwvZ3PpO
FIFA president Gianni Infantino was present for the landmark occasion, although the game was not broadcast live. AFP has also reported that no international media were in attendance, while South Korean football writer Steve Han explained that the North Korean football association will hand over a DVD of the full game to South Korean delegates before they leave the country.
The North Korea vs. South Korea derby will likely be available on tape delay. North Korean FA will provide a copy of the DVD containing the full match video to South Korean officials before they leave Pyongyang on 16 October, according to South Korea's Ministry of Unification.— Steve Han • 한만성 (@realstevescores) October 15, 2019
It was also reported that the game began in an empty stadium.
CBS/NoCutNews now reporting that a there was a no-audience kickoff for the South Korea-North Korea qualifier in an empty stadium. pic.twitter.com/URSrzNzpzt— Jihye Lee 이지혜 (@TheJihyeLee) October 15, 2019
In the last seven meetings of varying magnitude since 2008, neither side has scored more than a single goal in these games and this encounter was no different.
South Korea icon Son Heung-min was unable to inspire a victory, with a strong side also featuring Bordeaux forward Hwang Ui-jo, German-based Lee Jae-sung and the experienced Kim Young-gwon, as well as emerging Red Bull Salzburg star Hwang Hee-chan from the bench.
The big name in the North Korea line-up was that of Han Kwang-song, the 20-year-old who joined Cagliari in 2017 and became the first North Korean to play in Serie A soon after. He has since had loan spells at Perugia and joined Juventus B on loan during the summer.
The 0-0 result leaves the two Koreas level on points at the top of their World Cup qualifying group and both on course to reach the next stage of the process. Each has seven points from three games – prior to this one North Korea had beaten Lebanon and Sri Lanka 2-0 and 1-0 respectively, while South Korea won 2-0 against Turkmenistan and pummelled Sri Lanka 8-0.
Previously very frosty relations between the countries have considerably thawed in recent years, particularly where sport has been concerned.
The two nations marched together under the Korean Unification Flag at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, while a unified team competed as ‘Korea’ in the women’s ice hockey tournament.
At the 2018 Asian Games, a unified ‘Korea’ got a silver medal in women’s basketball, as well as three other medals in men’s and women’s canoeing. There was also a unified rowing team.
In football specifically, South Korea submitted an official expression of interest for a joint bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup with North Korea, with the final deadline for the bid book, hosting agreement and all other bid documents on 13 December later this year.