The North Korean regime has been thwarted in apparent plans to use the World Cup as a means to boost the image of leader Kim Jong-il's heir apparent Kim Jong-un. Radio Free Asia on Tuesday claimed the plans were scuppered when what seem to have been muddle-headed instructions from Kim senior himself to the national team lead to a devastating rout in South Africa.
Quoting a source, RFA reported that after watching the match against powerhouse Brazil, in which North Korea recorded a respectable 1-2 loss with a tight defense strategy, Kim Jong-il said that although the team played the first half well, it lost because it only focused on defense in the second half. He then gave orders for the team's defenders to be positioned forward and even specified where each defender should be standing in the field.
According to the source, Kim "gave orders twice" to a responsible official dispatched to South Africa during the game against Portugal on June 21. The orders were delivered to North Korea manager Kim Jong-hun and implemented in the game. Despite the widening gap in the score, the North Koreans team stuck to their hopeless strategy and lost 0-7.
North Korea had pinned high hopes on its World Cup team, the first in decades. The entire team was awarded the highest honors given for an athlete in North Korea in November last year, and Kim Jong-un is said to have visited the training center several times to encourage the players and listen to their concerns. The decision to broadcast the match against Portugal live came against that background.
A North Korean defector who was formerly a senior sports official said, "Although the North Korean leadership would have wanted at least one victory in the World Cup since they made it for the first time in 44 years, which could have been a huge propaganda push for Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il's interference ruined it all."