Kim Jong-Un’s Football Giveaway Stunted By Sanctions

Jody Ray Bennett
Jody Ray Bennett
Kim Jong-Un’s Football Giveaway Stunted By Sanctions

According to a report by The Ashai Shimbun, Kim Jong-un’s scheme to shore up domestic popularity among youth by a country-wide football giveaway has faltered now that increased economic sanctions have kicked in — pun intended!

According to the report, Kim came up with the idea to require football as compulsory education and as a result, planned to give away 1 million soccer balls to the youth of the Stalinist dictatorship. But now that sanctions have begun to cripple the economy of North Korea, the project has been suspended.

“North Korean industry does not have the capabilities or expertise to produce its own soccer balls or cleats, although it can manufacture football shirts, shorts and socks, according to Kim Kyung-sung, head director of the South and North Korea Sports Exchange Association based in South Korea that works to improve ties with North Korea.

He said he was once in negotiations with Pyongyang to set up an industrial complex in the North's capital to manufacture soccer gear, but the plan broke down after Seoul decided in May 2010 to apply its own sanctions against the North.”

The repeated missile launches by the closed state coupled with repeated international violations in nuclear proliferation has killed any chance of the resumption of the plan. According to the report, the intentions behind the soccer ball plan were “to raise morale through sports and win popularity for Kim at home.”

Since taking power, Un has built several sporting venues around North Korea, including a ski field, horse riding course, and roller skating circuit after establishing the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission in November 2012.

“Football is especially popular among North Koreans. The nation’s Under-17 women’s team won the World Cup in 2016, and the men’s team made it to the 2010 World Cup. In May 2013, the regime opened the Pyongyang International Football School.”

The report also noted that according to the South Korean government, “Australia has decided to refuse entry to the North Korean men’s Under-19 soccer team next month as part of sanctions imposed because of the country's repeated military provocations.”

One of the reasons North Korea is attempting to invest heavily in football may have had something to do with their embarrassing defeat in the 2010 FIFA World Cup against Portugal, ending with a score of 7-0.

Embarrassed after the U.S. women's soccer team beat North Korea 2-0 in the first round of the 2011 Women's World Cup, North Korea manager Kwang Min Kim said his team's loss may have been because some of its players were recently struck by lightning