June 21, 2010 12:43
The 23-member North Korean soccer squad is charming South Africans with their humble yet personable demeanor at the World Cup. Breaking stereotypes that North Korean athletes are like robots, the players pose for pictures and mingle with locals. "Behind their serious demeanor in the game, the camera-shy athletes have proved playful and personable at rest, ready with smiles and waves," AP reported Sunday.
Unlike other teams, the North Koreans train at a public health club in Pretoria, and exchange greeting with South Africans, take photos with them and sign T-shirts. A member who shook hands with a North Korean player at the club said, "It's great... it's not an opportunity you get every day."
On June 12, the North Koreans took time off from their training to visit the Johannesburg Zoo. "They were very excited. They said they don't get to spend a lot of time at the zoo and that they don't have a lot of zoos in their country," said Letta Madlala, spokeswoman for the Johannesburg Zoo. "They're very friendly, very relaxed."
But AP reported that the athletes are isolated from the outside once they return to their quarters. Star forward Jong Tae-se and midfielder An Yong-hak, who both grew up in Japan, are the only players who get to use the Internet, while the others are prohibited from contact with the outside world.
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