A Woe-Filled World Cup

Korea Football Assn. President Chung Mong Joon blasts FIFA's management and defends the idea of nations co-hosting the games

With just two months to go before the 2002 World Cup kicks off, the prospect of co-hosting the tournament hasn't had the hoped-for effect of easing tensions between Japan and South Korea. At the same time, the executive committee of FIFA, the governing body of football (soccer in the U.S.), is bitterly divided by accusations of mismanagement, cronyism, financial improprieties, and vote-buying (see BW International Cover Story, 4/01/02, "World Cup Follies").

Chung Mong Joon, president of the Korea Football Assn. and vice-president of FIFA, is one of the most outspoken critics of FIFA President Joseph. S. Blatter. Chung is supporting Issa Hayatou, president of the Confederation of African Football, to unseat Blatter in FIFA's May election.

Chung wants new leadership because he says there should be greater transparency and accountability in FIFA's management. Korea's football chief recently spoke with BusinessWeek Seoul Correspondent Moon Ihlwan about the co-hosting controversy and other issues affecting the organization. Edited excerpts from their conversation follow:

Q: You and several other FIFA executive committee members talk of the need for change in the way football's governing body is run. Why is reform necessary?


There's no transparency in the way FIFA is run. When the executive committee sent a letter to President Blatter seeking an explanation about his salary, he replied that the finance committee determined his salary and that the executive committee members didn't need that information. How could the FIFA president's salary be a secret? That's unthinkable. That's why [there is distrust].

Q: What steps do you think are necessary?


FIFA should handle matters in a transparent manner, and the executive committee, not the president alone, should make important decisions. The general assembly has given the executive committee decision-making authority.

Q: Some FIFA officials suggest that the general idea of having World Cup co-hosts is a bad one. Do you agree?


In fact, many European and African countries hope to co-host the World Cup and European or African championships. I believe co-hosting is the trend of the future. Only about nine countries are rich enough to host the World Cup alone, and they can't hold the games every time.

In the future, however, it should be recommended that co-hosts have a joint organizing committee. (Japan and Korea had separate panels.)

Q: The chairman of Japan's J. League, Saburo Kawabuchi, and other Japanese officials have been critical of the idea of co-hosting. What do you think about it?


The two countries supported and accepted co-hosting, so they will have to devote themselves to making it successful. At this stage, speaking ill of co-hosting is like spitting on your own face.

Q: There are indications that Japan's emperor and crown prince will not attend the opening ceremonies [to be held in Korea. Closing ceremonies will be held in Japan]. Will this affect the spirit of co-hosting?


If Japan was the sole host of the World Cup, the emperor would of course attend the opening ceremony. The emperor has never visited our country. And because of...our history, there would probably be protests against his visit.

Of course, it is a matter for Japan to decide. But the important thing is that we should respect the spirit of co-hosting, and the attendance of symbolic figures [would] demonstrate that.

Q: Was it necessary for Korea to build 10 expensive new stadiums? Will they be widely used after the World Cup competition?


Originally, we were planning to build seven stadiums, but I think we made a good decision. We now have more facilities for the sport.

The Seoul stadium is only 20 minutes from the city center and has a superb amphitheater for concerts, as well as a swimming pool and a large retail area in the basement. The real estate prices in the region have gone up considerably, which can help make up for the construction costs. It was built on the site of a [former] trash dump, and the stadium helped transform the area. Simply building apartments wouldn't have done that.

Q: What impact do you think co-hosting the 2002 World Cup will have on the Korean economy?


There are projections that it could bring $5 billion or even $10 billion into the economy. People will feel good, and they will regain confidence, which also will boost the economy.

But there will be even greater benefits that can't be measured. The World Cup provides a great opportunity to introduce Korea to the world, through people attending and the widespread broadcasts of the games.

Edited by Patricia O'Connell

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