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”