The North Koreans, like their brothers in the South, are crazy about football. They find this game fascinating because it reminds them of real life full of tough moments with unpredictable results. Their political leaders are quick to link the performance of the team to the broader national goals and prides.
For the DPRK, which lives in the state of permanent crisis, every small victory gives its people a good reason to celebrate. Playing football with Brazil is already a challenge, while scoring even one goal is a feat. Last week Ji Yun Nam’s lucky strike made millions of Koreans not only in the North of the Korean peninsula but also in the South and overseas elated. Tonight the DPRK is facing Portugal to seek revenge for the blow received 44 year ago (they lost 5-3 to Portugal despite taking a 3-0 lead after thirty minutes) .
Victories in sport give the North Korean people much consolation in their daily struggles. Their country remains stuck between the communist past and an unknown future. Desperately trying to modernise the nation, DPRK leadership remains fearful of any real change or reform. The dynamism and passion with which North Korea plays football could have been utilised in revamping its economic strategy, exactly like South Korea did it once to score the “miracle on the Han river”.
Defeats educate us better than victories. Even if DPRK national team does not show a great result at 2010 World Cup competition, it still learns a lesson together with its fans and critics back at home. By showing the character and strong determination for success in sport, North Korea puts a solid foundation for the new round of proclaimed self-modernisation. The final score means less than the general impression from technique, discipline and teamwork performed in the course of the match. By playing against the world strongest teams the North Koreans have already acquired respect and sympathy of millions, and probably inspired many more for hard work and excellent achievements.
(The Korea Herald, Aug. 02, 2010) Kim Jong-hun received his sentence after he and his players faced a six-hour grilling from 400 officials of the Communist country’s hardline regime. Kim was also stripped of his membership of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The players were then allegedly forced to… blame their coach for the defeats. Kim was being punished for “betraying the trust of Kim Jong-Un”…
— Read more articles by Leonid Petrov about soccer in Korea: