Pyongyang exhibits some World Cup fever, too

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Pyongyang exhibits some World Cup fever, too

As South Korea gets caught up in World Cup fever, North Koreans also are eagerly watching football matches from Brazil, although they must make do with recorded matches rather than live ones and many watch them on screens set up in public places in central Pyongyang at nighttime.

Following the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil last week, the North’s official Korean Central Television has been regularly broadcasting reruns of major football matches, usually a day or more after they took place.

The Brazil-Croatia match on Friday was broadcast the following day, and the Uruguay-Costa Rica game on Sunday was broadcast Tuesday. It’s likely that yesterday morning’s South Korea-Russia match will also be broadcast a couple days later.

Instead of broadcasting the full 90-minutes of each match, the Korean Central Television cuts the match into 50 minutes of highlights.

Crowds of Pyongyang residents have been spotted gathered outdoors at stadiums and at a plaza by a subway station to watch the recorded football matches on large screens at night. Though North Korea failed to qualify for the World Cup this year, North Koreans are well-versed with the line-up of the matches.

Initially, North Korea dismissed football as a “hungry sport,” especially as it failed to make any progress in the sport on the international stage. But in 2010, North Korea managed after 44 years to get into the World Cup in South Africa. Its state-run TV broadcast the matches, a rare event.

After that, the Pyongyang regime has widely promoted the sport.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has shown support for the sport. He has been spotted watching youth football matches, presenting artificial grass for matches and renovating stadiums. Last May, the regime opened the Pyongyang International Football School to train young elite football players, providing dormitories and primary and secondary education on the side.

The North Korean woman’s football team won the East Asian Cup in Seoul last August.

Korean Central Television has an agreement with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union to broadcast the World Cup, as it did in 2010, which gives countries who cannot afford expensive broadcasting fees free rights to air the games.

BY SARAH KIM, JEONG WON-YEOB [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]



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