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Flag faux pas at the Olympics angers North Koreans

Organizers at the London Olympics mistakenly displayed the South Korean flag before a women's soccer game between North Korea and Colombia. 

By Frank GriffithsAssociated Press / July 25, 2012

The North Korean women's soccer team runs out on to the field before their match with Colombia, Wednesday at Hampden Park Stadium in Glasgow.

Chris Clark/AP

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Glasgow, Scotland

London Olympic organizers mistakenly displayed the South Korean flag on a jumbo screen instead of North Korea's before a women's soccer match Wednesday, prompting the North Koreans to refuse to take the field for nearly an hour.

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The flag flap began during player introductions when a North Korean player was introduced along with a shot of the South Korean flag.

The match against Colombia was delayed for more than an hour, and organizers apologized for the error.

"If this matter couldn't have been resolved, then I thought going on is nonsense," coach Sin Ui Gun said through an interpreter after North Korea won 2-0. "We were angry because our players were introduced as if they were from South Korea, which may affect us very greatly as you might know."

The coach said the organizers corrected the mix-up, although it took some time. Large images of the North Korea flag were put up on both stadium jumbo screens during the delay and the players finally came out.

The team manager refused to have the coach respond to a question of what North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's reaction would have been to the incident.

The London organizers took the blame.

"Today ahead of the women's football match at Hampden Park, the South Korean flag was shown on a big screen video package instead of the North Korean flag. Clearly that is a mistake," organizers said. "We will apologize to the team and the National Olympic Committee and steps will be taken to ensure this does not happen again."

The statement, however, included another gaffe: It failed to refer to the countries by their official Olympic names, causing organizers to reissue the statement using "Republic of Korea" and "Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

Commenting on the flap, the International Olympic Committee pointed to London officials.

"It's a matter for the organizers," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.

The players walked past reporters after the match still in uniform without stopping. Two were carrying flags — the correct North Korean one.

North Korea and South Korea are bitter rivals. The flag mix-up comes amid high tension on the Korean Peninsula following a North Korean long-range rocket launch in April and repeated threats by Pyongyang to attack the South. Seoul and the U.S. have called the launch a cover for a test of banned long-range missile technology. North Korea says the rocket, which broke apart shortly after liftoff, was meant to put a satellite into orbit.

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