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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Crash prompts World Cup fears
South Korean rescue workers examine the wrecked fuselage of an Air China plane, 16 April 2002
There is concern the crash may lead to cancellations

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There are fears in South Korea that the China Air crash could damage preparations for the football World Cup, which is now just weeks away.

Busan Asian Stadium
Busan is hosting three matches
That possibility was uppermost on South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's mind when he told cabinet ministers on Tuesday to carry out a thorough investigation into the crash.

"I am worried about the potential impact of the accident on the World Cup," he is quoted as telling ministers.

"We must make sure the crash does not produce any ill effects".

South Korea is co-hosting the world's biggest sporting festival with Japan from 31 May-30 June.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to arrive in South Korea during the tournament. As many as 100,000 tourists are expected to be from China, coming to see their national side play in its first ever World Cup.

'Seats available'

The city of Busan - close to the crash site - will stage three World Cup matches.

But many tourism officials are playing down the extent of the possible damage.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung
President Kim wants to put safety first
"So far, so good", said one official at the state-run China International Travel Service in Beijing, when asked about booking cancellations because of the crash.

"We haven't had any cancellations, and I don't think we will have bookings withdrawn for the World Cup either - we are still struggling to cope with the demand," the official said.

There are more than 250 weekly flights between Beijing and Seoul. The number was increased in February to take advantage of the expected upsurge in travel ahead of the World Cup.

But Lee Kyung-mi, who works at a specialist travel company, Chinatravel.co.kr, said that they had received cancellations immediately after the air accident.

"Before the crash, flights to China had been very full and there was always a long waiting list," she said.

"People have been cancelling flights to China - now there are suddenly more seats available."

Extra checks

Football organisers and others in the tourism industry are hoping that swift action by the governments in South Korea and China will allay public concerns about air travel between the two countries.

"I hope - and expect -that the crash won't have a negative impact on the World Cup", said Lim Byung-taik, director of public relations at KOWOC - the Korean Organising Committee for the 2002 Fifa World Cup.

"There are many airlines travelling between China and Korea - as well as other forms of transportation.

"Nine port cities have direct services between China and Korea and we're expecting large crowds of Chinese when the Chinese team plays South Korea at a friendly match in Inchon later this month."

In addition to the official investigation into the crash, South Korean officials have also ordered extra safety checks on transportation systems before the football festival kicks off.

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