We’re not tortured if we lose, says North Korea striker Pak Kwang-ryong

The Lausanne player is disappointed with media reports about his country, saying they are simply not true

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 8:34pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 10:35pm

North Korea players have nothing to fear from authorities – even if they fail to perform on the field, say their top striker and coach.

Visions of torture and jail terms for poor performances by a harsh Kim Jong-un regime are simply myths, said striker Pak Kwang-ryong and North Korea’s Norwegian coach Jorn Andersen – in Hong Kong for their AFC Asian Cup qualifier against the home side today.

Pak, one of the three overseas-based players in the squad, was at first reluctant to discuss the matter because “I don’t want to say [anything] about my country”.

But the 24-year-old, who plays for Swiss Super League side Lausanne, eventually opened up and said: “Everyone can say something about our country, but that’s not true. Only one thing, I love my country and I love every citizen.” 

After North Korea conceded 32 goals at the 2010 World Cup – the most by any team at the South Africa tournament – reports emerged saying North Korean players were subjected to “harsh ideological criticism” and their coach Kim Jong-hun was publicly humiliated and sentenced to hard labour. Andersen, who was appointed North Korea coach last year, said he was disappointed by these reports.

“What I can tell you from what I read what many other people write about North Korea [is that they] are mostly wrong,” he said. “When they write these wrong things, they have to think about it first. I have lived in Pyongyang for a year and I have no problems. I don’t understand why other people write these things.”  

Andersen was also not happy that their opening home match against Malaysia in the Asian Cup qualifiers in Pyongyang was postponed twice because of political issues.

“I have to tell you I have lived in Pyongyang for one year and it’s a nice city, a city where we can live like in Europe and I don’t know why Malaysia were afraid of coming,” he said.

“I know the match has been postponed, but this is not our case. We were very angry that the game was first postponed and then it was decided to play in this Fifa period, but in a time short before the game, the AFC informed us to postpone the game again. We were very angry and don’t understand why.”

Hong Kong have never beaten North Korea on the international stage, drawing three and losing 11, including the last time they met in the East Asian Championships second round – a 1-0 loss at Mong Kok Stadium. 

“We have all the advantages – the ground, the weather and the fans who are all behind us,” said coach Kim Pan-gon said ahead of the meeting at Hong Kong Stadium.

Chan Kin-wa