The Sun, a British daily tabloid newspaper, was one of many international media outlets reporting over the weekend that the North Korean national soccer team coach, Kim Jong Hun, had been heavily criticized upon his return to Pyongyang from the World Cup Finals, and may have been sent to work as a laborer.
However, sources from the capital have cast doubt on the veracity of the report.
The Sun “revealed” on July 31st that Kim “will be grafting as a laborer for up to 14 hours a day,” and added, “The coach received his sentence after he and his players faced a six-hour grilling from 400 officials of the Communist country’s hardline regime.”
The international reports can all be traced back to an RFA report, which explained in its Korean original incarnation, “North Korea lost the game with Portugal by score of seven to zero, and then when players and staff went back to the fatherland they had to go through an ideological criticism conference for six hours in the People’s Palace of Culture on July 2nd.”
An Myung Hak and Jung Tae Se, Korean-Japanese players who ply their trade outside the country, were not present, RFA added.
The report also repeated a rumor from Shinuiju whereby Kim Jong Hun had been expelled from the Party for, allegedly, betraying successor Kim Jong Eun’s trust.
However, sources from North Korea told The Daily NK that immediately after the North reached the World Cup Finals there were widespread celebrations and the coach was handed the prestigious “People’s Athlete” title. As one source pointed out, “In that situation, punishing him may have brought about side effects in public opinion.”
The source conceded that the coach and some of the players may have been punished, but said that the authorities would have had difficulty forcing them to become laborers.
According to The Daily NK’s source, Pyongyang citizens reportedly say that the punishment may have been as light as rescinding his title, “People’s Athlete.”