North Korea tries to keep world from watching soccer match against South Korea live

 South Korea's national soccer team train at the Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Oct 14, 2019. The match is the first one the South Korean men's national team has played in North Korea since a friendly in 1990.
South Korea's national soccer team train at the Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Oct 14, 2019. The match is the first one the South Korean men's national team has played in North Korea since a friendly in 1990.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - South Korea men's national soccer team plays in North Korea for the first time in almost three decades on Tuesday (Oct 15), with leader Kim Jong Un's reclusive state doing all it can to make sure the world doesn't see the game live.

North Korea has barred South Korean fans, media and TV broadcasters from a World Cup qualifier game at Kim Il Sung Stadium in its capital.

But it has pledged to provide some footage of the match - just as Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min and the rest of the South Korean side are about to return home.

The match is the first one the South Korean men's national team has played in North Korea since a friendly in 1990.

While President Moon Jae-in has staked his political capital in trying to improve ties with his neighbour, Pyongyang has refused his calls for talks, accused him of meddling in its discussions with the US and tested a new short-range ballistic missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to all of South Korea.

South Korea, ranked 37th by Fifa, is the heavy favourite to take the match, over North Korea, ranked 113rd.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said North Korea showed no interest in allowing a live broadcast.

"We've tried to feel out any sort of response from North Korea's end regarding live broadcasts or sending a cheering squad, but there's been no response," the ministry's spokesman, Mr Lee Sang-min, told a briefing on Monday.

North Korea intends to give the South Korean athletes and coaches a DVD of the match on Wednesday afternoon, shortly before they board a flight leaving North Korea, according to a Unification Ministry statement.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino is due to watch the match in Pyongyang, and two officials from the South's Korea Football Association will be in the stadium to watch, the football governing body said in a statement. Fifa didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

ANTHEMS, FLAGS

North Korea's state media has shown its heavy hand in soccer coverage before, blocking out results when its team lost to arch-rival Japan.

 
 

The two Koreas, technically still at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended without a peace treaty, rarely meet for competitive matches. When they have, politics has played a role.

They were in the same qualifying group in 2008 for the World Cup, with each nation hosting a match.

While South Korea allowed for the North Korean anthem and flag to be on display for the match it hosted, North Korea refused, forcing Fifa to move the match to Shanghai.

North Korea, as the host, then raised some ticket prices to triple their normal level, with South Korean sports officials seeing the move as an attempt to drive out as many rank-and-file South Korean fans as possible.

The reclusive state is ill-equipped to manage patriotic displays by South Koreans on its soil, which would force it to explain why its capitalist neighbours are proud of their country and not keen to live under Mr Kim's leadership.

North Korea's propaganda machine has portrayed South Korea as being under the thumb of US oppressors, calling the leaders of its neighbour henchmen of Washington.