Footballers Told to Behave During Stay in Pyongyang

  • By Yun Dong-been

    October 14, 2019 13:40

    South Korean footballers were told by a Unification Ministry official to be extra cautious while they stay in Pyongyang for a rare World Cup qualifier between the two Koreas there. The match will be held at Kim Il-sung Stadium and is part of the second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

    They were briefed in Paju, Gyeonggi Province on Oct. 8 ahead of their departure for Pyongyang on Tuesday.

    The No. 1 priority is to bring back whatever they carry in. "The footballers were told repeatedly that they should bring back everything they bring in so they avoid the risk of accidentally violating UN sanctions," a Korea Football Association staffer said on Sunday. "That includes any pairs of socks, jerseys and track suits made by Nike of the U.S."

    Son Heung-min (center) arrives at Incheon International Airport on Sunday on his way to an inter-Korean match in Pyongyang. /Yonhap

    The ministry also advised them not to carry American-made laptops or other electronic gadgets and luxury goods, which the UN and the U.S. government have put on a blacklist of goods that could be diverted to development of weapons of mass destruction.

    Clips in the North Korean state media of a missile test in August showed an Apple iPad and a drone remote controller on leader Kim Jong-un's desk, which he must have gotten hold of through a weak link in the sanctions.

    Footballers and support staff will also leave their smartphones behind at the South Korean Embassy in Beijing. They will only be allowed to take digital cameras, whose memory cards will be checked when they leave Pyongyang.

    The match will not be broadcast live. "Today the three major TV networks had last-minute negotiations with North Korean officials through a Japanese agency," a football official said on Sunday. "But talks aren't going smoothly."

    The time is now at any rate too short to set up the transmission equipment. "We're going to relay real-time scores on social media in case live satellite coverage isn't possible," the KFA staffer said.

    But even that could be difficult assuming there is no internet coverage in the stadium. Currently, only the names of scorers and scores are posted on the websites of FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation in real time.

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