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Kim Jong Un meets with North Korea's women's soccer team at airport

Kim Jong Un and North Korean First Lady Ri Sol Ju personally greeted the players, after Kim had declined to meet a visiting South Korean dignitary.

By Elizabeth Shim
Kim Jong Un meets with North Korea's women's soccer team at airport
Kim Jong Un and North Korea’s First Lady Ri Sol Ju received the winning team returning from a tournament in China where North Korean women players beat competing teams from South Korea, China and Japan. Photo by KCNA/Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared at Pyongyang's Sunan Airport to personally greet the soccer team that won the Women's East Asian Cup after beating rival South Korea 2-0 on Saturday.

State media outlet KCNA said on Monday Kim and North Korea's First Lady Ri Sol Ju received the winning team returning from a tournament in China where North Korean women players beat competing teams from South Korea, China and Japan, Yonhap reported.

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"Comrade Kim Jong Un and Comrade Ri Sol Ju met directly with the great daughters of military-first Korea," North Korea said in statement.

KCNA said the team was "returning home in glory" and that the athletes drew lavish praise from the North Korean leader.

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"In the name of the Workers' Party, the republic, the military and the North Korean people, I congratulate the great daughters who have given a glorious present in the event of the 70th anniversary of liberation, and have extended the dignity and majesty of this country," Kim said.

The North Korean leader took souvenir photos with the team at the airport and held each team player's hand to express his approval, South Korean television network SBS reported.

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A road extending between the airport and the city of Pyongyang was crowded with more than 200,000 city residents cheering the returning athletes on the sidelines, according to KCNA.

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"A festive atmosphere of a national holiday presided over Pyongyang," North Korea said.

The North Korean women's soccer team beat South Korea 2-0 on Saturday, but North Korea's men's team lost to South Korea that won the 2015 East Asian Cup with a draw on Sunday.

Kim met with the team personally after reportedly declining a meeting with former South Korean First Lady Lee Hee-ho who left Pyongyang on Saturday.

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