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North Korea World Cup 2010: First Appearance In 44 Years

North Korea, recognized as Korea DPR by FIFA, has participated in two FIFA World Cups so far. Their first appearance came at the 1966 World Cup, and then at the 2010 event.

Their absence from the top soccer event doesn’t look like ending anytime soon as the Eastern Asian country has pulled out of 2022 World Cup qualification rounds due to Covid-19 concerns.

In 1966, North Korea surprised everyone by qualifying from the group stage. They were the first Asian nation to achieve this feat. Their campaign also included a historic 1-0 win over soccer giants Italy.

However, the North Korea’s World Cup 2010 campaign was a far cry from its success 44 years earlier. Ahead of the Cup, North Korea (Korea DPR) was ranked 105th in FIFA rankings. This made them the lowest-ranked nation to ever participate in the World Cup soccer following the inception of FIFA rankings in 1993.

north korea soccer coach and player

North Korea World Cup 2010 squad was grouped with the likes of Brazil, Portugal, and Ivory Coast in Group G. They were coached by their former player Kim Jong-hun. The Asian nation gave a decent account of themselves in their opening game as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to five-time champions Brazil. Ji Yun-Nam scored for North Korea in the 89th-minute of the game. During the tournament, he scored the only goal for his nation.

In their second game, North Korea was humiliated by Portugal as they suffered a 7-0 defeat to the European nation. Six of Portugal’s seven goals were scored in the second half and six different players were on the scoresheet. This was the first soccer match to be broadcasted live on North Korean TV.

In the final game, Ivory Coast triumphed over North Korea 3-0. The Asian nation finished at the bottom of their group with a goal difference of -11. They created history with the worst goal difference of any team in the Cup and effectively meant that North Korea finished last among 32 competing nations.

However, the ordeal of the North Korean contingent didn’t finish in South Africa. Multiple reports claimed that the players and the coaching staff were punished by their regime and were sent to labor camps. Head coach Kim Jobg-hun was also shamed in front of a large gathering including the country’s sports minister. He was also accused of betraying Gen. Kim Jong Un, who was the nation’s second-in-command at the time.

North Korea World Cup 2010 Goalkeepers

Ri Myong-Guk

Date of Birth: 9 September 1986

Height: 187 cm

Shirt number: 1

Position: Goalkeeper

Kim Myong Gil north korea goalkeeper

Kim Myong Gil

Date of Birth: 16 October 1984

Height: 181 cm

Shirt number: 18

Position: Goalkeeper

With Ri Myong Guk and Ju Kwang-Min keeping the goal in North Korea’s opening qualifying matches against Mongolia, Kim Myong-Gil was left to watch the action from home. However, the 25-year-old didn’t have to wait too long for a call-up from North Korean coach Kim Jong-Hun, who opted to count on his more experienced players in the following qualifying stages.

With Ri already firmly cementing his place in the starting XI thanks to some outstanding performance between the sticks, Kim and Ju were left to battle for the role of the first-choice backup. Ju had in his favor the experience of starring for the North Korea’s youth teams in the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup and the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Still, Kim’s consistent display with local giants Amrokgang saw him earn the nod and cement his place as Ri’s established deputy.

Kim Myong Won korth korea goalkeeper

Kim Myong Won

Date of Birth: 15 July 1983

Height: 180 cm

Shirt number: 20

Position: Goalkeeper

Kim Myong Won has been named North Korea’s third-choice goalkeeper by coach Kim Jong-Hun for South Africa 2010. As part of the Chollima’s successful qualification campaign for the second time at a FIFA World Cup, the 26-year-old played three times for Amrokgang Sports Group.

North Korea World Cup 2010 Defenders

Cha Jong Hyok

Date of Birth: 25 September 1985

Height: 178 cm

Shirt number: 2

Position: Defender

Ri Jun Il north korea defender

Ri Jun Il

Date of Birth: 24 August 1987

Height: 178 cm

Shirt number: 3

Position: Defender

Though still a relative youngster at the age of 22, Ri Jun-Il has proved that he has the ability and mentality to be counted on when North Korea DPR goes up against the likes of Brazil and Portugal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

The only player who started Chollima’s 16 qualifiers, the Sobaeksu defender, was one of North Korea DPR’s most consistent performers as they shocked their continental rivals by qualifying for the global showpiece.

The dependable center-half was a permanent fixture in the U-23 team that competed in Asian qualifying for the Olympic Games Beijing 2008. With Ri marshaling the backline, the East Asians stormed into the final round, where they finished behind Australia and Iraq to bow out. However, although the team came up short, Ri emerged as the most notable gem unearthed by North Korea DPR during the competition.

Having figured prominently at junior level, Ri graduated to the North Korea’s experimental side against Mongolia in Asia’s preliminary qualifying round for South Africa 2010. Battle-hardened and cool-headed, the gifted defender excelled at the back as his side convincingly won both legs.

The youngster never looked back from that moment, featuring significantly throughout the remaining campaign as the North Koreans advanced in style. Regardless of the frequent tactical changes made by his coach, there was always room for Ri in the Chollima’s starting XI.

Ri Kwang Chon

Date of Birth: 4 September 1985

Height: 183 cm

Shirt number: 5

Position: Defender

Ri Kwang Chon north korean defenderStill just 24 years of age, Ri Kwang-Chon is nonetheless one of North Korea DPR’s most experienced players at the international level, having featured significantly in their qualifying campaigns for the last two FIFA World Cups.

He was a permanent fixture in coach Yun Jong-Su’s squad four years ago, excelling at the back as the North Koreans swept past the likes of the United Arab Emirates and Thailand to reach Asia’s final qualifying round for Germany 2006.

Reaching the continent’s last eight was a significant achievement for the East Asians, but they came up just short against Asia’s elite sites and failed to qualify for the 2006 showpiece.

Despite that failure, the North Korean team did succeed in unearthing a host of talented youngsters, with Ri among the most notable. With the precious experience of that 2006 campaign behind him, the 25 April Sports Group star played a vital defensive role as Kim Joon-Hun’s charges mounted a memorable and ultimately successful qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

Aside from shoring up the defense alongside the likes of Ri Jun-Il and Pak Chol-Jin, Ri’s surging runs forward became a powerful feature of Chollima’s attacking play, and he came close to scoring on more than one occasion.

Ji Yun Nam

Date of Birth: 20 November 1976

Height: 172 cm

Shirt number: 8

Position: Defender

Ji Yun Nam north korea soccer player

The 25 April Sports Group is North Korea DPR’s dominant club force with ten league titles to their name. As well as their unrivaled domestic achievements, the Namp’o giants are also known for their prolific conveyer belt of talent. One of their notable products is 33-year-old Ji Yun-Nam, who shoulders the creative burden in the North Korea’s midfield and Mun In-Guk.

The midfield duo has struck up an almost telepathic understanding for both club and country. Their co-operation was displayed to devastating effect against the United Arab Emirates in Asia’s qualifying final round, with Ji crossing for Mun to score the winner.

Having featured in Korea DPR’s failed qualifying campaign for the last FIFA World Cup in Germany 2006, Ji is among the most experienced of Kim Jong-un’s players and to take on the tough group stage.

Pak Chol Jin

Date of Birth: 5 September 1985

Height: 184 cm

Shirt number: 13

Position: Defender

Pak Chol-Jin, 24, formed one-half of Asia’s meanest defensive partnership with Ri Jun-Il as North Korea DPR surprised everyone by claiming one of the continent’s four automatic berths for South Africa 2010.

Having appeared four times during North Korea’s failed qualifying bid for the FIFA World Cup in Germany four years ago, Pak was called into coach Kim Jong-un’s squad ahead of Asia’s third round of qualifying for South Africa 2010. Throughout, he proved one of Chollima’s most consistent performers, missing only two outings during the entire third preliminary stage.

A dependable center-half, Pak can also fill in at right-back when coach Kim switches to a more attacking formation. A formidable physical presence in both penalty areas, he is one of the tallest members of the soccer team. Serbia’s Nikola Zigic (202cm) was the tallest player at the 2010 World Cup. He was one centimeter taller than England’s Peter Crouch and 18 centimeters than Pak Chol Jin.

Pak Nam Chol

Date of Birth: 3 October 1988

Height: 183 cm

Shirt number: 14

Position: Defender

Pak Nam-Chol, 21, has forged a reputation as a skillful defender for both club and country and possesses the fighting spirit that has become North Korea DPR’s trademark.

Born in October of 1988 to a worker’s family from the Namp’o City, Pak inherited his passion for football from his father, a genuine fan of the Chollima. As a child, he was told about the country’s legendary achievement of reaching the last eight at the 1966 FIFA World Cup England. Inspired by the story, he dedicated himself to pursuing a career in the beautiful game.

He didn’t have to wait too long for his wish to be granted, with a call-up to the national youth team coming in 2005, when he excelled as North Korea DPR reached the quarter-finals of that year’s FIFA U17 World Cup. Already heralded as one of the country’s finest emerging stars, Pak enjoyed a prolific 2007. Next, he represented his country at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada before graduating to the senior ranks. He made four appearances during qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, including starting in both legs of the tie against Mongolia. He figured prominently for the national B team more recently as they took gold in February’s AFC Challenge Cup.

Unprecedented pace and admirable technique have made Pak a mainstay at the back for local giants Amrokgang. He is also renowned for possessing a supreme belief in his ability and will be confident of dazzling the world with his skills on the global stage.

Nam Song Chol

Date of Birth: 7 May 1982

Height: 178 cm

Shirt number: 16

Position: Defender

Nam Song-Chol now forms part of the team’s backbone, having shored up North Koreans defense while qualifying for the last two FIFA World Cups. A product of the dominant 25 April Sports Group, with whom he has played since 2004, Nam is among the most experienced defenders his nation can boast.

The soccer fullback, who turns 28 in May, was a fixture in the Korea DPR squad that impressed their qualifying bid for Germany 2006 despite failing to reach the finals. He was again a key player four years later, making ten appearances as Korea DPR shocked the world by qualifying for their first FIFA World Cup in over four decades.

Aside from the excellent understanding, he has struck up with defensive colleagues Pak Chol-Jin and Ri Jun-Il, Nam is also known for his attacking flair. His surging from the flank can be a lethal weapon in matches where Korea DPR is searching for a breakthrough.

Generally deployed as a right-back by coach Kim Jong-Hun, Nam is a likely candidate for the skipper’s job for the 2010 tournament. In the ten qualifiers he played en route to these finals, Nam started with the captain’s armband on seven occasions.

Ri Kwang Hyok

Date of Birth: 17 August 1987

Height: 178 cm

Shirt number: 21

Position: Defender

Ri Kwang-Hyok proved to be a dependable defender during the North Koreans title-winning campaign in February’s 2010 AFC Challenge Cup. The 22-year-old’s steady performances boosted his chances of making coach Kim Jong-un’s squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Aside from strolling through his defensive role in the final against Turkmenistan, Ri also kept his cool to convert the decisive spot-kick in the sudden-death round of the penalty shootout to win the continental title for North Korea.

Ri made his debut on the Asian stage four years ago when he represented his country in the 2006 AFC U-19 Championship, shoring up the defense as Korea DPR won the continental title and progressed to the FIFA U-20 World Cup. In the next global showpiece in Canada a year later, he played in all three games, including the 2-2 draw against eventual finalists Czech Republic.

Ri Kwang-Hyok has since made two appearances during qualifying for the 2010 tournament, coming on as a substitute in the 5-1 home win over Mongolia before starting against the South Korea Republic and helping to keep a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw.

North Korea World Cup 2010 Midfielders

Pak Nam Chol

Date of Birth: 2 July 1985

Height: 172 cm

Shirt number: 4

Position: Midfielder

Though still just 24, Pak Nam-Chol numbers among the North Koreans most experienced players, having featured in the Chollima’s qualifying campaigns for the last two FIFA World Cups.

Four years ago, he appeared in five qualifying games for Germany 2006 as the North Koreans stumbled at the final round. This time around, Park returned to the North Korean national team midway through their campaign in Asia’s third round of qualifying for South Africa 2010, coming on as a substitute for Kim Yong-Jun in the second half of the goalless draw away Turkmenistan.

He featured for the Chollima in their remaining nine games, including a total 90-minute run-out in their concluding fixture against Saudi Arabia when a goalless draw sealed their place in South Africa.

A creative midfielder, Pak Nam-Chol is also known for his goalscoring ability. He opened the scoring for the North Korean players in a crucial 2010 World Cup qualifier against the United Arab Emirates. He was also on target against Venezuela in the build-up to the finals, again scoring the opener in a 1-1 friendly draw.

Kim Kul Il

Date of Birth: 10 October 1987

Height: 170 cm

Shirt number: 6

Position: Midfielder

Boasting lightning pace and a nose for goal, nimble Kim Kum-Il could prove to be a secret weapon upfront as Korea DPR seek to stun their heavyweight rivals in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

The 22-year-old forward made three appearances during North Korea’s successful qualifying campaign, utilized as an impact player to come off the bench, replacing the likes of Mun In-Guk or Hong Yong-Jo. Indeed, despite enjoying limited playing, Kim has shown that he is more than capable of assuming the role of super sub.

He showed his quality in a crucial qualifier against the United Arab Emirates in Asia’s final qualifying round for the 2010 tournament. With the game goalless and UAE threatening, substitute Kim surged forward from midfield before threading a perfect pass through for Chol Kum-Chol, whose cross-cum-shot was deflected home by Basheer Saeed.

Kim Kum-Il first broke onto the continental scene when he steered Korea DPR to the Asian title in the 2006 AFC U-19 Championship, scoring four goals and earning the Most Valuable Player award. He also spearheaded the North Koreans’ attacking line-up in the following year’s FIFA U20 World Cup in Canada and found the net in a 2-2 draw with eventual finalists in the Czech Republic. His outstanding performances at both the continental and global stages earned him the 2007 AFC Youth Player of the Year awards.

Mun In Guk

Date of Birth: 29 September 1978

Height: 167 cm

Shirt number: 11

Position: Midfielder

Kim Yong Jun

Date of Birth: 19 July 1983

Height: 182 cm

Shirt number: 15

Position: Midfielder

Kim Yong-Jun is among the North Korea’s most experienced players, having featured in the Chollima’s qualifying campaigns for the past two FIFA World Cups.

The 26-year-old midfielder was a near-permanent fixture in the side that failed to secure a place at Germany 2006, starting 11 of their 12 qualifying fixtures.

This international experience did not go unnoticed when coach Kim Jong-Hun formulated his South Africa 2010 qualifiers plan. However, this time he was in a more defensive midfield role.

A hard tackler with a powerful shot, Kim Yong-Jun breaks up opposition attacks and provides some much-needed drive from the midfield engine room. He also numbers among the North Korea players’ small overseas-based contingent. After spending four seasons with Pyongyang City, he moved to China’s Yangbian FC in 2007 before switching to the higher-profile C-League side Chengdu Blades just a year later.

An Yong Hak north korea defender

An Yong Hak

Date of Birth: 25 October 1978

Height: 182 cm

Shirt number: 17

Position: Midfielder

North Korea remain one of the most mysterious teams out of the 32 qualified teams despite reaching the 2010 FIFA World Cup. An Yong-Hak, 31, should be one of the best known of the enigmatic East Asians after spending the past eight years switching between clubs in Japan and the South Korea Republic while representing his country with distinction.

One of the cores of experienced Chollima players featured in the unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. An is typically deployed as a defensive midfielder. However, he was a vital cog in coach Kim Jong-un’s defensive and counter-attacking strategies throughout the South Africa 2010 preliminaries, holding the midfield and providing incisive forward passes.

With a cool head and years of experience, An Yong-Hak has proven that he can be trusted. Hak started 13 of Chollima’s 14 matches in the qualifying phase while traveling to and from South Korea to play for Suwon Bluewings. Despite only missing the last of their four meetings with the South Korea Republic due to injury, his team was defeated by a single goal in his absence.

An belongs among Korea DPR’s small overseas-based contingent. Born and raised in Japan, he started his professional career in his adopted country when he joined Albirex Niigata in 2002 before joining J-league giants Nagoya Grampus in 2005.

He became a trail-blazer when he earned his national team call-up back in 2002. When Korea DPR embarked on Asia’s qualifying for the last FIFA World Cup, An was one of only two foreign-based players alongside Ri Han-Jae, formerly Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

In a 4-1 victory over Thailand, An Yong-Hak made his international mark, bossing the midfield and scoring a brace of goals. A win like that helped them advance to Asia’s last eight in the final qualifying round, where An appeared three times as North Korea finished with the wooden spoon.

An and Co made amends four years on, sweeping past the likes of Iran and Saudi Arabia to take one of Asia’s four automatic qualifying spots. They have been handed a tough assignment, though, having been drawn against five-time world champions Brazil, Portugal, and Côte d’Ivoire in the global showpiece.

Despite this, the competition-hardened An remains unfazed and has already set his sights on a draw against Brazil in the opening game. Should they achieve this, he believes nothing can be ruled out in their next fixtures against Portugal and Côte d’Ivoire.

Ri Chol Myong

Date of Birth: 18 February 1988

Height: 173 cm

Shirt number: 19

Position: Midfielder

Ri Chol Myong north korea midfielderFebruary’s AFC Challenge Cup provided North Korea with a perfect chance to test their fringe players. After winning the continental championship, assistant coach Jo Tong-Sop announced that “four or five” of the title-winning team had a chance of making the plane to South Africa.

While tournament MVP and top scorer Ryang Yong-Gi would seem the most likely to earn his place in coach Kim Jong-un’s 23-man line-up, midfielder Ri Chol-Myong is also among the candidates after excelling throughout the campaign.

Though he is still just 22, the Pyongyang City playmaker is no stranger to the international scene, representing Korea DPR at the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru and the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada two years later.

Ri Chol-Myong was also selected in the experimental side that played the opening qualifying fixtures for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, starting in both legs against Mongolia as North Korea progressed 9-2 on aggregate.

Kim Kyong Il

Date of Birth: 11 December 1988

Height: 174 cm

Shirt number: 22

Position: Midfielder

A member of the North Korea side that reached the last eight of the 2005 FIFA U17 World Cup, midfielder Kim Kyong-Il’s hard work and consistent performances over recent years have earned him a place in Kim Jong-un’s South Africa 2010 squad.

Kim Kyong Il north korea midfielder

After his impressive international introduction at those youth finals, the Rimyongsu youngster represented his country at the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, starting all three of his team’s matches. Given this sustained progress at the youth level, it came as no surprise when Kim graduated to the senior side, earning a half-hour run-out against Mongolia during preliminaries for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

That proved to be his only appearance during the Chollima’s lengthy qualifying campaign, with coach Kim opting to rely on his more experienced players for the remaining fixtures. However, Kim Kyong-Il had also shone during qualifiers for the Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, steering his side through into the final round by scoring a 2-1 victory over Lebanon. He will be aiming to take his international career to new heights by shining at the 2010 tournament.

Pak Sung Hyok

Date of Birth: 30 May 1990

Height: 175 cm

Shirt number: 23

Position: Midfielder

North Korea World Cup 2010 Forwards

An Chol Hyok

Date of Birth: 27 June 1987

Height: 178 cm

Shirt number: 7

Position: Forward

Five years ago, an already eliminated North Korea fought hard to overcome hosts Bahrain 3-2 in the final qualifying game for Germany 2006. With this, they not only claimed their first and only win in the final qualifying round but also unearthed a fresh attacking talent in An Cho-Hyok.

It was with the score at 2-2, and both sides were searching desperately for a winner, that the then 20-year-old rose to the occasion with the decisive strike just a minute from time. Kim Jong-Hun was impressed with his finishing talents and included him in his squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. His first appearance came in the crucial game away to the United Arab Emirates when he came off the bench to replace Kim Yong-Jun midway through the opening half.

UAE dominated, but after Korea DPR had taken the lead against the run of play, An Cho-Hyok scored a superb solo effort with ten minutes remaining to seal the victory. Later, on the back of three appearances in North Korea’s successful 2010 qualifying campaign, the Rimyongsu Sports Group forward ran riot against Guam in last August’s preliminaries for the 2010 East Asian Football Federation Championship, netting four times as they thrashed the islanders 9-2.

Jong Tae Se north korea attacker

Jong Tae Se

Date of Birth: 2 March 1984

Height: 181 cm

Shirt number: 9

Position: Forward

Hong Yong Jo

Date of Birth: 22 May 1982

Height: 174 cm

Shirt number: 10

Position: Forward

Hong Yong-Jo is North Korea DPR’s golden boy. One of the finest players the East Asian nation has produced in recent times, Hong has established himself as Korea DPR’s talisman after captaining the side through a memorable qualifying campaign.

In Kim Jong-un’s preferred strategy, Jong Tae-Se, the Japan-based striker, was invariably the focal point of the North Korea attack during qualifying. In spite of operating in a more withdrawn role, Hong Yong-Jo, known for his lightning pace and thunderous shots, scored four times in as many matches to become the team’s top scorer alongside Jong Chol-Min.

Hong Yong Jo north korea striker

Hong is one of Chollima’s homegrown stars, unlike Jong Tae-Se, who was born in Japan. He joined the 25 April Sports Group in 2004 and scored 41 goals in three seasons. FK Bezanija in Serbia offered him a contract before he joined FC Rostov in Russia a year later.

Moving abroad is a rare honor for North Korean players, but Hong’s foreign adventures reflect the esteem in which his predatory talents are held. In 2004, he first broke into North Koreans senior side, and it didn’t take him too long to break his international duck, opening his account against Yemen during qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Korea DPR qualified for the final qualifying round of the tournament after Hong scored twice in three matches following a goalless draw against the United Arab Emirates.

Boosted by those experiences of the Germany 2006 qualifiers and having honed his skills in European leagues, Hong Yong-Jo became the team’s natural leader as Korea DPR embarked on their qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010. He reaffirmed his credentials as early as the opening game against Jordan in the third qualifying round, netting just 60 seconds from half-time as the North Korean players got off to a perfect start.

In the return match, he scored twice against the same opponents, giving his side a 2-0 win at home. Hong’s second goal demonstrated his skills best, as he beat three defenders and cut into the area before firing low into the net.

His fourth goal came in the 1-1 draw against the Korea Republic when he deftly converted a penalty to put Korea DPR ahead after 64 minutes, only for Ki Seung-Yueng to equalize five minutes from time.

As everyone knows, the North Koreans made history 44 years ago by reaching the last eight in their FIFA World Cup debut in England 1966, with Pak Doo-Ik scoring the goal that sent Italy packing. Around the corner is the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, when Hong will take over the role of the legendary Pak, as the Chollima aim to replicate those glorious achievements.

Choe Kum Chol north korea

Choe Kum Chol

Date of Birth: 9 February 1987

Height: 178 cm

Shirt number: 12

Position: Forward

Choe Kum-Chol, 23, proved to be one of the North Korean biggest revelations during qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, contributing two goals to aid his side’s cause.

The Rimyongsu striker made eight appearances during the preliminary stages, all but two of which came as a substitute. His two starts might have come about due to the absence of star striker Jong Tae-Se, but he made the most of these rare opportunities by showcasing his impressive predatory talents.

The first time he appeared in Kim Jong-un’s starting 11 against a resilient Turkmenistan side, he repaid the coach’s faith with his first international goal. With the Central Asians defending gallantly and the score blank, Choe rose to the occasion by scoring the only goal with just 18 minutes remaining.

His second goal came in the North Korean first meeting with UAE in Asia’s final qualifying round, when he was again granted a starting place. As with before, his contribution proved to be crucial, with Choe opening the scoring in the second half of a 2-1 win.

Choe Kum-Chol also featured as a substitute in six other qualifiers, and while he could not add to his tally from those two starts, he has proved beyond doubt that he is a player well capable of chipping in with vital goals.

North Korea World Cup 2010 Coach

Kim Jong Hun north korea soccer coach

Name: Kim Jong Hun

Country: North Korea

Date of Birth: 1 September 1956

Returning To North Korea

According to reports, North Korea’s World Cup team was subjected to a six-hour public excoriation after returning from the tournament for “betraying” their ideological struggle. There are even concerns for the safety of the team coach, Kim Jung-hun, who has been accused of betraying the regime’s “dear leader,” Kim Jong-un.

The US-based Radio Free Asia reported that the North Korean players were forced onstage at Pyongyang’s city hall and subjected to criticism for their poor performance in the 2010 World Cup.

A total of 400 athletes, sports students, and the country’s sports minister attended the “grand debate.” South Korean media said sports North Korean commentator Ri Dong-kyu was instructed to point out the shortcomings of each footballer. Coach Kim Jong Hun invited the players to make comments about his coaching methods in a true Stalinist fashion. The coach allegedly betrayed the North Korean leader and the country.

Coach Kim Jung-hun had been sent to work on a building site, and his safety had been questioned, according to the source quoted by Radio Free Asia. In an attempt to build support among the military and workers’ party elites for a power transfer, North Korea had hoped to attribute the team’s success to Kim Jong-un.

Nevertheless, the players have been deemed to have gotten off lightly by South Korean media. According to a source in South Korea’s intelligence service, coaches and athletes who failed the nation in the past ended up in prison camps.

The regime didn’t have to do much worse than reprimand the team for their ideological shortcomings, a source told the newspaper, considering the high hopes North Koreans had for the World Cup.

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