South Korea without Park for match against North

September 8, 2008

SEOUL, Sept 8 (Reuters) - South Korea will be without leading player Park Ji-sung when it takes on North Korea in a World Cup qualifying match on Wednesday which was moved to Shanghai for political reasons.

FIFA last month moved the match between the two Koreas to Shanghai because the North refused to play the South's anthem and raise its flag in a match originally set for the North's capital Pyongyang.

South Korea officials said Premier League club Manchester United refused to release Park, fearing the national team duty could aggravate a nagging knee injury.

The two Koreas, still technically at war, met in a previous round of qualifying matches. The match set for Pyongyang in March was also moved to Shanghai for political reasons.

South Korea, looking for their seventh straight trip to the World Cup finals, played the anthem of its Cold War foe and raised its flag when the North came to Seoul in June in a qualifying match that finished 0-0.

The two top teams in the two Asia groups earn berths at the 2010 finals in South Africa, with another spot available to the fifth-placed team if they can overcome Oceania champions New Zealand in a playoff.