06/18/2010, 00.00
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Two North Korean players try to flee, perhaps punished

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
Two of four players (goalie Kim Myong-won, mid-fielders Kim Kyong-il and Pak Sung-hyok and striker An Chol-hyok) not on squad list are thought to have asked for political asylum in an African country. FIFA denies, claiming an error in list transcript. Next Monday, North Korea plays Portugal; its star player, Jong Tae-se, who wept at the sound of national anthem, has never lived in North Korea.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – The absence of four North Korean players whose names were not on the squad list for the match with Brazil was a simple transcript error, a FIFA official told reporters, as they tried to get information about their whereabouts. The four “missing” players are goalie Kim Myong-won, mid-fielders Kim Kyong-il and Pak Sung-hyok and striker An Chol-hyok.

Sources in South Korea say however that two of the four players, the goalie and striker, might have asked an African nation for political asylum, and were punished by the team’s security handlers. The attempt to defect apparently is due to “fear over the next match”, a source said.

On Monday, North Korea plays Portugal, the team they lost to 5-3 in the 1966 World Cup in England. Angered by the result, then North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung had most players shipped off to a labour camp. Team leader Pak Doo-ik, who scored against Italy causing the Azzurri to go down to defeat, spent 15 years cutting wood because of the defeat against Portugal.

Now history is repeating itself. The Chollima (winged horses), as the team is know, are afraid they might end up the same way, everyone, except Jong Tae-se, the player that endeared himself to the whole world when he wept when North Korea’s national anthem was played before the match with Brazil. Born and raised in Japan, he has a South Korean father and a North Korean mother, and holds South Korean passport; however, thanks to FIFA mediation in 2007, he was able to play for the North.

Speaking to reporters, Jong said he wept when the anthem was played “for the emotion of finally representing North Korea against the best team in the world.” Talking about himself, he said that his favourite food is bulgogi or North Korean-style barbecued beef, that he has no TV or fridge, useless in his view, and that he respects “South Korea for having an open and international mindset”, but prefers the North for the greatness of its people. In fact, he plays in a Japanese football league and has never lived in North Korea.

Still, he will star in the match against Portugal. North Korean coach Kim Jong-hun has said that his patriotic attitude has already been “noted by our leader Kim Jong-il”. Coach Kim also said that he gets "regular tactical advice during matches" from Jong-il himself, "using mobile phones that are not visible to the naked eye,” which the ‘Dear Leader’ “developed himself”.

North Korea’s dictator is known for his inspired ideas, usually presented in great pomp and ceremony to North Korea’s press and nation. The last one dates back to 2004, when during an official dinner for party leaders and army generals, his kitchen staff served one of his great culinary concoctions, later described as “sublime” by those present, namely hamburgers.

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