Report: North Korea's fan base not what it seems

Published Jun. 17, 2010 6:27 p.m. ET

North Korea's tiny fan club at the World Cup in South Africa is made up of citizens already working in Africa on construction projects, a report said Thursday.

A group of 50 red-clad supporters cheered on their team as it went down 2-1 to Brazil Tuesday in Johannesburg after a dogged defense. They claimed they were part of a group of 300 fans who had traveled from Pyongyang.

But Daily NK, a Seoul-based online newspaper run by defectors, said the impoverished North had mobilized workers already in African countries to cheer on the side's first World Cup finals appearance since 1966.

It said they were either from a state company involved in overseas construction projects or from the Mansudae Art Institute, which produces statues and other works of art in Namibia, Angola and other African countries.

Mostly recently the institute built a 164-feet, $27 million monument called "African Renaissance" unveiled in April in Dakar, Senegal.

Daily NK quoted a source in China as saying: "North Korea planned to send a large cheering group from Pyongyang, but it was canceled due to problems of cost and difficulties regulating them on site."

Pyongyang's attempt to sell 65 free tickets, allocated by FIFA for each of its games, through overseas offices also failed because no one wanted to buy them, the source said.


North Korea's economic difficulties have deepened since it went ahead with a second nuclear test in May last year, which triggered tougher U.N. sanctions.

(This article is provided by NewsCore, which aggregates news from around News Corporation.)