Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 18 News List

N Korean tells teammates to go South’s K-League


North Korea’s Japan-born midfielder An Yong-Hak wants his teammates to head to league soccer in rival South Korea to broaden their horizons and help improve the national side.

The 32-year-old, who like striker Jong Tae-se was born in Japan, but represents the North, played all three games for North Korea at the World Cup last year in South Africa and was part of their Asian Cup squad.

A 1-0 defeat to holders Iraq in Doha on Wednesday meant North Korea went home with just a single point and without scoring a goal, leaving management and players to wonder what they can do to improve their fortunes on the field.

“After playing in the K-League for four years, I gained a lot of experience so I am sure that others would also benefit from playing there,” An said, referring to South Korea’s top league.

North and South Korea are still technically at war and relations went into deep freeze last year. Exchanges of any kind between the two sides are severely limited.

However, An, who now plays in Japan’s J-League, said that should not be a deterrent, even if it would be a highly unusual move — especially for a North Korean born in the secretive country.

“I think that the K-League is one of the highest-level leagues in Asia and the standard is apparent from the performance of the clubs in the AFC Champions League,” he said.

North Korean coach Jo Tong-sop said after the Iraq defeat that it might be time to bring in members of his country’s highly successful youth sides and ditch the defensive tactics the senior team have long deployed.

“Of course, the older players who have been at the World Cup have more experience at international level and they have more knowledge and skills in football than our young players,” An said.

“But even though our younger players are not able to perform at the highest level yet, they have tremendous potential and could become better players in the future,” he said.

Most of the current senior squad play for clubs in North Korea, but a handful have gone overseas, notably captain Hong Yong-jo, who plies his trade for FC Rostov in Russia, and Jong, who plays for VfL Bochum in Germany.

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