Archive for June, 2002

North Korea breaks silence on South

Saturday, June 22nd, 2002


The state-run media in Communist North Korea have reportedly broken their silence over the success of South Korea in the World Cup.

According to foreign residents in Pyongyang, North Korean television broadcast edited highlights of South Korea’s World Cup match against Italy, which ended in a surprise 2-1 victory for the South Korean side, earning them a place in the quarter-finals.

The television footage was aired five days after the match, but it was the first time the Communist state has broadcast anything about the South Korean team.

It has shown some games but until now has omitted to tell its own people that they are taking place in South Korea or that the South is even competing.

Its main television bulletin on Saturday made no mention of South Korea’s quarter-final victory over Spain, devoting itself instead to praise for leader Kim Jong-il and coverage of the lavish Arirang cultural festival.

Some commentators see the Arirang festival as an attempt to upstage the World Cup.

North Korean television has shown the football games without asking permission or paying a fee. It has also displayed match schedules, but consistently left out South Korea.

Fans aware

This does not mean that North Koreans have been unaware of the progress of the southern team.

Diplomats in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, told the South Korean news agency Yonhap that locals saw Korean signs displayed around the football grounds and must have realised the Cup is being held in the South.

According to the southern newspaper Munhwa Ilbo, North Korean soldiers manning the Demilitarised Zone that separates the two countries were cheering for South Korea’s squad as the South broadcast commentaries of the games and news of the World Cup across the border by loudspeakers normally reserved for propaganda.

“They actually cheered on Tuesday when Korean player Seol Ki-Hyeon scored the equaliser in the Italian match, and Ahn Jung-Hwan scored the golden goal in extra time,” a South Korean military source told the newspaper on Saturday.

Southern officials have said North Korean television introduced only 15 of the final 16 games, leaving South Korea out.

A North Korean escapee told Yonhap: “North Korean residents regard the blank space in the match schedule of international matches as indicating South Korea. Even though the North Korean authorities have not publicised South Korea’s advance … residents will naturally know how well the South’s team has fought a good fight.”

Anti-US propaganda

Propaganda commentaries on North Korean television aimed at South Korean audiences have however made it clear that the Cup is taking place in the South, and that the South is playing.

Such a commentary on 12 June said US team players in the South were living in “anxiety and terror amid tight security for fear of being attacked by South Koreans in an atmosphere where anti-US sentiment has been intensified”.

The television showed pictures of Taegu stadium, where the South Korean and US match took place on 10 June, surrounded by riot police, along with pictures of the heavily-guarded US Embassy in Seoul.

“[They] are extremely restless and fearful, frightened by the South Korean people’s unprecedented escalating anti-US sentiment and their bold struggles against the United States. We should say that this is all too well-deserved,” the television said.