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A 강성대국 exclusive: Snubbed by the DPRK

April 4, 2010

The Chinese are coming! They are allegedly investing $10 billion to build infrastructure in the DPRK. They leased Rajin port for 10 years. And the Dear Leader was thought to have arrived in Beijing asking for more aid. Some North Korea watchers even went as far as proclaiming that China is turning the DPRK into its “Inner Chaoxian Autonomous Region“. Is the DPRK gradually losing its independence? Are the North Koreans becoming nothing but cronies of the pesky Chinese?

Not so fast. 

In a subtle move that has yet to be read and covered by anyone else (a 강성대국 exclusive) , the DPRK is showing China and the world who the boss is. In the least expected places that you could ever imagine, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa it is! Last year the DPRK men’s national football team made it to the World Cup, dealing a humiliating blow to many Chinese football/soccer fans who lamented on the overall poor performance and the lack of 투혼 of the Chinese team. One group of Chinese were very happy though that the North Koreans got a shot at the most prestigious sporting events in the world (sorry Beijing, the Olympic Games are for grannies. The Super Bowl and the so-called “World Series” are for the mentally and strategically incapacitated): Hongxing Erke, a little-known apparel company based in Fujian, China, signed a $3 million deal with the North Korean sports authorities in 2006 to sponsor North Korean athletes at the national team level.  

Erke and the North Koreans in happier times

Erke and the North Koreans in happier times

Since the DPRK made little splash in Beijing during the 2008 Beijing games, few people noticed that North Korean athletes were wearing Erke. Erke had hoped that the upcoming World Cup would become their coming-out party, officially introducing their brand to viewers and sports fans around the world. And then came the shocking news: 

Cha Jong-Hyok had his eyes on the ball

screw you ERKE, screw you China!

In a pre-WC warm-up/friendly match between the DPRK and Mexico on March 17th, 2010, the North Korean players were seen wearing red Pirma jerseys. According to my exclusive sources, Pirma, the Mexican apparel company is just two weeks away from inking a deal with the DPRK Football Association. People at Hongxing Erke must be pulling their hair out at this moment. 

Usually I am one of those people who accuse certain people of intentionally reading too much out of nothing, but I can’t help thinking that this move, as subtle as it might be, has deeper and greater implications. First it is a statement from the DPRK that it will not tolerate complete economic and financial reliance on China, dropping Erke should be read as a move to veer off from Chinese influence. Secondly, for anyone who has dealt with the North Koreans, especially the Chinese, the decision to drop Erke should serve as a reminder that the DPRK might not necessarily honor a contract/deal. So you think it is safe to conclude that China has the Rajin port under its control for 10 years? Think again. 

A brilliant move by the North Koreans. Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I will be rooting for the new Red Devils this coming summer.  The first game is between them and the football powerhouse Brazil in Johannesburg on Tuesday, June 15th. Must-watch.

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