North Korean football players sent to coal mine after World Cup loss?

| June 22nd, 2010


Recently the Chinese websites and forums are filled with the talks of North Korea National football team are going to be sent to coal mine as punishment if they lose at the World Cup.  Is this true?  Netease talked about this “as a not verified news” on June 17 after North Korea’s 1-2 loss to Brazil.  Some sites claimed this news came from U. S. blogs and small websites. This article from IFeng talked about a “rumor” found on a Team Liquid forum posted by a Romanian:

“As I was turning in to see the second half of the Argentina vs S. Korea game, I heard the newscaster for TVR1( Romania’s national TV station) talking about four north Korean players gone missing from world cup.  It is believed that they have fled in order to avoid going back to North Korea.”

The article also stated that a former North Korea assistant coach said “If we lose, they will be punished, some players will be sent to work at a coal mine.”

I was curious about the original source of the news and how creditable it is. So I searched this topic in English and found NPR posted a original news article by Times Live South Africa written a week ago – “World Cup players sent to coal mines if they lose”.  It wrote:

With that honor comes pressure. Moon Ki-nam, a former national-level North Korea coach who defected to South Korea in 2004, said players are handsomely rewarded with coveted apartments if they win internationally but are punished, some sent to coal mines, if they lose.

And apparently this "rumor” can be traced back as far as 1966! BBC has a nice article on the former glory of North Korea team at the 1966 tournament hosted by England.  North Korea entered quarter finals by beating Italy 1-0 along the way. However after going 3-0 ahead in the quarter final, North Korea some how lost the match to Portugal with the final score of 5-3.

It was suggested that the North Korean authorities were not as delighted as the fans, and there was dark gossip about what might have happened to the players after they came home.

According the the article a North Korean defector now living in South Korea, Shim Joo-il said,

"It was rumored that some of them were sent to the coal mines as a punishment, and that was why our team never again achieved such greatness."

But the team members said otherwise when tracked down a few years ago by a British documentary team.

In fact, the surviving members of the 1966 squad were tracked down a few years ago by a British documentary team given rare access to North Korea.

They found seven of the men alive and well, including "the dentist" himself, Pak Do-ik. All of them insisted that the team had received nothing but praise for their exploits, on and off the pitch.

So what is happening to today’s North Korea team?

Ironically, North Korea was knocked out of their hope of advancing by Portugal again after the huge 0-7 loss.  According to News Times (AP), It was supposed to be North Korea’s revenge match against Portugal which for the first time was aired live in North Korea.

"The Portuguese won the game and now have four points. We are ending our live broadcast now," a Korean Central Broadcasting commentator said, quickly cutting to footage of factory workers and engineers praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

After the 7-0 humiliating loss, Chinese Netizens were sure that the poor North Korean football players are going to be sent to coal mines now, hence these photo-shopped Kuso pictures of North Korean football players as coal miners circulated on forums like MOP and Tianya.

True or not, I guess we can never be sure what really goes on with this mysterious North Korean football team in the mysterious country.


(Original picture of Jong Tae-Se, a North Korean football player currently playing for J. League side Kawasaki Frontale. He is a member of the North Korea national team and nicknamed "the People’s Rooney”, filled with tears when hearing the North Korea National anthem before the match.)




“Don’t stop me, I am in the hurry to go to the coal mine!”



News headline right next to the picture of Portugal beating North Korea 7-0: “a coal mine explosion happened in Henan province, China, 46 dead”

Mining in North Korea is better than mining in China!


The movie: “Rescuer the coal miner Jong Tae-Se

31 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. Devin says:

    Hahaha~! It’s pretty funny though. I like north korean team for what they’ve acted in match~! The guy in the pic he had cried twice. One was a match korean against North korean , before they kicking two teams played two difference anthems. He’s an absolute patriot

  2. Malice says:

    the article is really interesting! i saw some documentaries about North Korea and somehow I feel sorry for those players,like you said we can never know what is going on there but surely isn’t like in others countries 😐

  3. dongshizhang says:

    they will be going to a worse place than any coalmine: North Korea

    • GuoBao says:

      The coalmines are the best place to be in DPRK. It’s warm, you get enough to eat (to keep working) and because the mine can’t afford giving lamps to the workers you can sneak off into a sidetunnel for a quick nap.

  4. GuoBao says:

    Key. You could have done a little background search in order to find out what the DPRK is really like and what kind of horrible stuff goes on there. I know, I know you guys are still semi-allies so very little of that get reported in the mainsteam media. I’ ll recommend you a couple of articles by Christopher Hitchens. You can find them on You can start off with “A Nation of Racist Dwarves” and move on from there.

    • Key says:

      Haha, GuoBao I have an Idea of what is like in North Korea… by reading both from western media and of course Chinese sources. Surprisingly they are somewhat in lined… though many Chinese people actually have been to North Korea and many North Koreans do somehow get to China occasionally…
      But I think exposing what kind of horrible stuff goes on in DPRK is out of the scope of ChinaHush 🙂

  5. maelstrom says:

    I don’t find it funny at all. I am really scared for these players and I wish someone would help them. Instead of making fun of them and playing photoshop, the fans of football should try to support these players in case something bad happens to them upon their return home.

    • nicodemus says:

      How? You can do anything you want if you own your own country.

      I thought it was sad too though. 7-0 is a gangbang. It would be stupid if N. Korea won just people everyone else was overly sympathetic, but man. I’m impressed they played the whole game.

      People can say what they want about N. Korea (I do), but that team has some good guys.

      But that said, these guys aren’t *more* worth protecting than anyone else in the world who may be terribly wronged by their government for a bad reason. These guys lost a football match, but some people are killed just because they’re alive. (And more than 11 I think)

  6. Don says:

    i like this guy, he is definetly in a wrong team…football is supposed to be 11 men in a team, this guy is playing alone. He is a warrior

  7. Crystal says:

    Portuguese had to be more considerate 🙂
    They literally “killed” North Korean players…

    • nicodemus says:

      Not to be picky, but “literally” would mean the Portuguese team used pipes, or wrenches, or their bare hands to actually beat the N. Korean team to death themselves (or do something similar). (Although, it’s used this way *all* the time in the US, so most people won’t give it a second thought)

      But more importantly, if you say that, you’re removing the N. Korean Government’s responsibility not to kill people. If you think they’re human, you have to think they can make choices too. They’re the ones who would do any literal/actual/factual killing.

      It’s good for people to be sensitive to a bad situation, but the responsibility for a murder falls on the people with smoking guns in their hands.

  8. Krystina says:

    jong tae-se will not be going to any coal mines after the world cup ..he wont even be going to north korea because he lives in japan. He was born and raised there and that’s where he will be returning to. This really isnt funny at all. How would you like to live in a country where you can be punished and thrown into prison camps for the rest of your life (along with the rest of your family) for pretty much anything that the leader of your country does not agree with. Ridiculous

  9. fireworks says:

    Coal mines are notoriously dangerous places. In China alone, there are 5000 casualties almost every year. I don’t think North Korean mines are any safer either as they are not transparent and accountable to the media but to their eternal leader Kim Jong Ill. North Koreans are on the brink of a disaster and war if they keep up with their propanganda and provoking the South Koreans.

  10. Chris says:

    Hell this isn’t funny at all, photoshopped rubbish. How can anyone laugh at this? I’m sure the guys who made this stuff wouldn’t be laughing if their children and loved ones were sent to labour camps for the rest of theirs lives!

    • Devin says:

      I know , Im not laughing at this. I mean , some netizen are creative. As I know , they are not not sure to be sent to the mine.


      count down second means : Henan Ping ding mountain coal mine dynamites were blasted 46 ppl died.
      and the red word mean:Be a collier in north korean coal mine is better than in china

  11. sada says:

    All of the sayings posted above are nonsense if you keep thinking the North Korean football team has any link to the dictatorial or bloody NK

  12. Harry says:

    can somebody gives me an insight why it is a coal miner, how do you guys look for a coal miner occopation in china?

  13. Nondakure says:

    At any mention or lampooning of North Korea there are always the ones who come out of the woodwork to explain how it’s a horrid Stalinist dictatorship with people thrown in labour camps, blah blah, as if people were completely unaware of this. Yeesh.

    In the book The Aquariums Of Pyongyang by Kang-Chol Hwan, describing the author’s experience at the Yodok camp in NK, he mentions coming across a member of the 1966 team in the camp, and says quite a few of the others met a similar fate – albeit an impermanent one, considering the existence of that BBC doco. Speaking of which, I highly doubt that the 1996 players saying “yeah, we were praised, nothing bad happened” can be taken at face value.

  14. daewin says:


  15. Kim Jon Un says:

    You capitalist fool, we will invade you all and steal all your oil and women. It is only a matter of time before we invade from the Moon where we have a space fleet on the Moon and we will crush you all.

    Kim Jon Un

  16. GeorgeWBush says:

    I think that American Capitalism will end the world wars, and all shall have what they want. To Mr Kim Joan Un I would like to say that unless you hand over your communistie idealys yhen America will move in on you! So we’ll… 911 you.

  17. Kim Jon Un says:

    We have got spies in America and I know where you live. Bush! And the name is Kim JON Un fool. Also my pen pall Osama, says he will also destroy you puny capitalist ideas. Also Obama is a terrorist and he is going to blow up the White house, as the White house is racist…

    Kim Jon Un

  18. GeorgeWBush says:

    I have written to Osama Bin Laden, did you ghet some of my mail? i thinks I may have gotten yuor name mixed with Osama’s mail. If so please send it to him at 27 cave mountain as i need to knew where he’ livers.

  19. Dolan duck says:

    i em dolan

  20. Sum Yung Hoe says:

    What’s the difference between a pizza and a Jew? Pizza’s don’t scream when they’re put in the oven.

  21. GeorgeWBush says:

    Hiddily ho yung ho! I’ m The ex presidnet! So want to go out!?!

  22. Hew G Rection says:

    Racism shouldn’t exist, racism is a crime, crime is for black people

  23. GeorgeWBush says:

    Ypure dad died UN and you spell Un! Hahha!!

  24. GeorgeWBush says:

    I do belife that Wal mat has soomehow had a hand in this. Ad welt as soome sale assissstants

  25. Kim Jong Il says:

    Im back from the dead but im so woney, i need to get some freinds such as Jackthefreind on Minowcraft, the crafting of minows into useful red sploges.

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