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North Korea vs. South Korea in Asian Games men’s soccer final

North Korea men's soccer

North Korean players sing the national anthem before the first round of the men’s football match between North Korea and China during day -4 of the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, west of Seoul, on September 15, 2014. The 17th Asian Games will open in Incheon on September 19, with 45 nations and territories competing in 36 sports ranging from athletics and swimming to kabaddi and sepaktakraw. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

North Korea and South Korea advanced to the men’s soccer final at the Asian Games, setting up an anticipated showdown for gold between the bordering nations in Incheon, South Korea, on Thursday.

North and South Korea met in the Asian Games men’s soccer final once before, in 1978 in Bangkok. That match ended 0-0 with the nations sharing the gold medal, according to The Associated Press, which reported there must be a winner Thursday.

The incentive is even greater than gold, via the AP:

A gold medal would grant them exemption from mandatory military service, which is largely in place because the two countries are still technically at war.

South Korea won men’s Olympic soccer bronze at London 2012, its first Olympic soccer medal. North Korea has never won a men’s Olympic soccer medal, making its lone appearance in 1976.

North Korea and South Korea’s tensions have long been apparent in the Olympic sports arena.

In September, South Koreans competed at an international sporting event in North Korea for the first time at a weightlifting meet. That came after South Korea rejected a North Korean offer to host some of the 2018 Olympic skiing events. The 2018 Olympics will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Previously, North Korea boycotted the Seoul 1988 Olympics, but the nations marched together under one flag at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Sydney and Athens. North Korea also competed in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea.

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