North Korea's Soccer Hero
March 27, 2008 3:46 PM   Subscribe

70 year old Pak Doo-Ik will lead North Korea's prestigious Olympic torch bearers to Beijing this summer. In the 1966 World Cup at Middlesborough, Pak scored the goal that lead his team to a stunning 1-0 upset win over Italy (video). Pak Doo-Ik and the team returned home as heroes, but ultimately fell under the suspicion of North Korean leadership. The team underwent "mental re-education" and were exiled, Pak Doo-Ik spending ten years as a forest laborer. Dear Leader Kim Jong-il later allowed Pak to coach North Korea's national soccer team, and a fascinating 2002 BBC documentary brought Pak Doo Ik back to the international stage.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (12 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, at least he probably won't have to worry about protestors.
posted by Artw at 4:17 PM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by A dead Quaker at 4:50 PM on March 27, 2008

I don't understand how the North Korean system still exists.
posted by crazy finger at 4:54 PM on March 27, 2008

Seriously, thanks for this. I was in Seoul a little over a year ago, and one South Korean I talked to said his feeling (which he believed to be shared by many others) was that the question of North Korea opening up was a matter of when, not if. Every time one or both of the Koreas is in the news my ears perk up, now, with a little hope (not always fulfilled).
posted by A dead Quaker at 4:56 PM on March 27, 2008

Subsidies. Fear of what will happen when it ends.
posted by Artw at 4:57 PM on March 27, 2008

I don't understand how the North Korean system still exists.

Yeah. It seems like the Russian and US governments wouldn't really object all that much if China simply swooped in and occupied the north and would likely chip in to cover building a modern infrastructure. The region would be better off for it, except for Seoul, which would become ashes and rubble.
posted by bunnytricks at 5:03 PM on March 27, 2008

After reading Wild Swans, it seems to me like China cloned itself into North Korea in Cultural Revolution-mode, and NK has never moved on.
posted by sandking at 5:45 PM on March 27, 2008

I don't understand how the North Korean system still exists.

It's a very complicated situation, of course, but despite the strong feelings among much of the population in favour of reunification and reconciliation (at least amongst those too young to have lived through the war and its aftermath), successive governments have, regardless of what they said in public, been less than keen in reality on the idea. The reason behind this is primarily economic: the North Korean economy and infrastructure is in such a shambles, and the abject poverty of most of the population, means that reunification would have a profoundly negative impact on the South Korean economy and social stability, or so it's believed. Many of the larger Korean companies, on the other hand, are slobbering at the bit, imagining 20 million new customers, and the possibilities for massive expansion and cheap labour inside a suddenly doubled-in-size Korea proper, as well as the opening of landlinks to China and Russia that reunification will bring.

I am cautiously hopeful, but I don't think it's going to happen soon, and when it does, it's going to be a shitstorm (with a hopefully positive outcome, once the dust settles).

The newly-elected government of Lee Myung Bak, right-wing ex-CEO 'pragmatist' douchebag, and his promised return to more hardline policies (with which I actually agree, because I think far too much NorK pussyfooting and appeasement has gone on, despite my impeccable lefty-weiner credentials) mean that the next five years will probably see a retreat from Kim Dae Jung and Noh Moo Hyun's 'sunshine policy' strategies, perhaps in hope of destabilizing the regime to the point where a small push will tip the scales, and a manageable reintegration can proceed in a measured sort of way. Fat chance. The flipside of that hardening of policy is probably that more North Koreans will starve, and the situation there will get tangibly worse for the average person, but the ROK has shown over the years that the actual welfare of those poor bastards up in the north is not something they feel any responsibility to protect or improve.

It's a sad and shameful state of affairs, all around. [/derail]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:53 PM on March 27, 2008

That first sentence refers to sentiment in South Korea, of course.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:54 PM on March 27, 2008

crazy finger writes "I don't understand how the North Korean system still exists."

posted by mullingitover at 6:59 PM on March 27, 2008

This is a terrific documentary that a good friend of my helped to finance with his production company. He also worked with the same director on another documentary about the North Korean mass games called A State of Mind.

I recommend both if you want to better understand the people of North Korea without the usual western demonizing.
posted by cazoo at 7:09 PM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Good post - not wanting to snark though, but it's spelt 'Middlesbrough'. Having a parent from there and wasting spending a lot of time watching Middlesbrough FC gives you an eye for this ;)
posted by robzster1977 at 5:12 AM on March 28, 2008

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