N. Korea's WC losers get public scolding

Updated: July 31, 2010, 8:22 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea's national team and coach have been publicly rebuked for losing all three games at the World Cup in South Africa, news reports said.

The team and coach Kim Jong-Hun were summoned to a July 2, six-hour meeting at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang and subjected to severe criticism, the U.S.-financed Radio Free Asia reported Monday.

Competing in its second World Cup finals after an absence of 44 years, North Korea exited at the group stage, beaten 2-1 by Brazil, 7-0 by Portugal and 3-0 by Ivory Coast.

As reported in the Daily Telegraph, the coach was lambasted for "betraying" Kim Jong-un -- one of North Korean President Kim Jong-il's sons and presumed heir apparent.

Sports minister Pak Myong Chol was among some 400 government officials, athletes and students at the closed-door session, the Radio Free Asia report said.

Team members were forced to reprimand their coach at the end of the gathering, the report said.

Japan-based players Jong Tae Se and An Yong Hak were exempted from the meeting, RFA said.

The report cited two unidentified sources in North Korea and a Chinese businessman named Yu, described as knowledgeable about North Korea affairs.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service, the country's main spy agency, said Wednesday it could not immediately confirm the report.

Groups in Seoul that monitor information out of North Korea said they could not corroborate the report, and there was no mention of any such meeting in Pyongyang's state media.

A veteran of North Korea's 1966 squad previously had said the team would receive a warm welcome despite its poor performance.

"Now when the Korean team gets home, officials and crowds of people will go to the airport to welcome them," Pak Du Ik, who led his country to the quarterfinals in England 44 years ago, told television news agency APTN in Pyongyang last month.

"We have learned a lesson from the three World Cup matches, we accumulated experience and we found an answer to how to improve our football," he told APTN.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.