Team Profile: North Korea

North Korea overcame a lack of offensive punch to advance to the World Cup, relying on a stellar defensive record to book its trip to South Africa


  • Coach: Kim Jong Hun
  • Goalkeepers: Kim Myong Gil (Amrokgang), Kim Myong Won (Amrokgang), Ri Myong Guk (Pyongyang City)
  • Defenders: Cha Jong Hyok (Amrokgang), Ri Jun Il (Sobaeksu), Ri Kwang Chon (April 25), Nam Song Chol (April 25), Pak Nam Chol (Amrokgang), Ri Kwang Hyok (Kyonggongop), Pak Chol Jin (Amrokgang)
  • Midfielders: Ji Yum Nam (April 25), Mun In Guk (April 25), Pak Sung Hyok (Sobaeksu), Ri Chol Myong (Pyongyang City), Pak Nam Chol (April 25), An Yong Hak (Omiya Ardija/Japan), Kim Kyong Il (Rimyongsu), Kim Yong Jun (Pyongyang City)
  • Forwards: Hong Yong Jo (FC Rostov/Russia), An Chol Hyok (Rimyongsu), Jong Tae Se (Kawasaki Frontale/Japan), Choe Kum Chol (April 25), Kim Kum Il (April 25)


Style of play: It's all about defence with North Korea, which tends to use a 4-5-1 formation under coach Kim Jong Hun. When his team is not in possession, Kim will drop a midfielder back in defence to solidify the back line. With a lack of quality options going forward, the North Koreans sit back and soak up the pressure, relying on their speed and fitness to carve out scoring chances on the counter-attack.

1st round matches:

  • June 15 vs. Brazil in Johannesburg
  • June 21 vs. Portugal in Cape Town
  • June 25 vs. Ivory Coast in Nelspruit

Projected starting lineup (4-5-1): (GK) Ri Myong-guk - (D) Cha Jong-hyok, Ri Jun-il, Pak Nam-chol, Ri Kwang-chon - (M) Ji Yun-nam, Pak Chol-jin, An Yong-hak, Hong Yong-jo, Mun In-guk - (F) Jong Tae-se


  • Quickness - Say what you will about the North Koreans, they are a fast bunch of players who run themselves ragged during a game. Physical fitness will not be an issue.
  • The underdog factor - Nobody is giving North Korea any chance of making it out of the group stage, which means they will have no pressure hanging over them and can focus strictly on playing their game. They did it before, in 1966 when they stunned the Italians, and they could do it again.
  • Disciplined - Coach Kim Jong Hun has put together a well-organized side that picks up few yellow cards. Each player knows his role on the field, resulting in great team spirit.


  • Tough group - The lowest-ranked team at the World Cup (No. 106), North Korea had the misfortune of being drawn into the Group of Death alongside tournament favourite Brazil, Portugal and the Ivory Coast.
  • Tactically rigid - North Korea's philosophy is to defend first and hit its opponent on the counter-attack. But what happens if they trail in a game? They will be forced out of their defensive posture and play with more attacking verve, something that they're used to doing.
  • Lack of quality - The majority of players on the team ply their trade in the North Korean league, while their Group G opponents boast some of the game's biggest stars, who make a living in the top leagues in the world. How can North Korea compete?

Players to watch:

  • Ri Myong-guk - The experienced goalkeeper played in all but one of his country's World Cup qualifying matches.
  • Jong Tae-se - The North Korean forward is blessed with great strength, which he uses to fight off opposing defenders who are trying to close him down, a fierce shot and an eye for the goal.
  • Hong Yong-jo - The Russian League midfielder is North Korea's leader on the field, noted for his playmaking skills and scoring the odd goal

Key injuries/squad omissions: In a bit of a surprise, coach Kim Jong Hun decided not to take Japan-based midfielder Ryang Yong Gi, who was his country's top scorer the AFC Challenge Cup tournament earlier this year. Another curious omission is Jong Chol-min, who scored four goals in the World Cup qualifiers.

Prognosis: First-round exit. Back at the World Cup for the first time since 1966, the North Koreans will be the whipping boys in Group G. Sure, they recorded 10 shutouts in 14 games in the qualifiers thanks to a miserly defence. But their defenders didn't have to stop players the calibre of Luis Fabiano, Didier Drogba and Cristiano Ronaldo, which they will have to do in South Africa. If they score a goal, it will be minor miracle. A fourth-place finish after three losses is in the cards.


  • Current FIFA ranking: #106
  • Qualification route: North Korea hammered Mongolia in a preliminary, two-game playoff series by an aggregate score of 9-2. In the next round of the Asian qualifiers, North Korea finished second in Group 3 behind South Korea (they finished tied on 12 points). In the final round, North Korea finished second in Group 2 (12 points) behind South Korea (16 points)
  • Key to qualification: A well-organized, miserly defence saw the North Koreans advance to the World Cup. Amazingly, they only gave up five goals in the last two rounds of the qualifiers, posting an incredible 10 shutouts in 14 games.
  • Crucial result: A 0-0 tie against Saudi Arabia (June 17, 2009, in Riyadh) in the final game of the Asian qualifiers was enough for North Korea to clinch a World Cup berth at the Saudis' expense.
  • Qualifying record: 16 games played, 8 wins, 6 draws, 2 losses
  • Goals for: 20
  • Goals against: 7
  • Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Hong Yong-jo and Jong Chol-min (4)

Qualifying results: (home team listed first)

  • Oct. 21, 2007 - Mongolia 1, North Korea 4
  • Oct. 28, 2007 - North Korea 5, Mongolia 1
  • Feb. 6, 2008 - Jordan 0, North Korea 1
  • March 26, 2008 - North Korea 0, South Korea 0
  • June 2, 2008 - Turkmenistan 0, North Korea 0
  • June 7, 2008 - North Korea 1, Turkmenistan 0
  • June 14, 2008 - North Korea 2, Jordan 0
  • June 22, 2008 - South Korea 0, North Korea 0
  • Sept. 6, 2008 - United Arab Emirates 1, North Korea 2
  • Sept. 10, 2008 - North Korea 1, South Korea 1
  • Oct. 15, 2008 - Iran 2, North Korea 1
  • Feb. 11, 2009 - North Korea 1, Saudi Arabia 0
  • March 28, 2009 - North Korea 2, United Arab Emirates 0
  • April 1, 2009 - South Korea 1, North Korea 0
  • June 6, 2009 - North Korea 0, Iran 0
  • June 17, 2009 - Saudi Arabia 0, North Korea 0


  • Number of World Cup appearances: 1
  • All-time record: 4 games played, 1 win, 1 draw, 2 losses
  • Goals for: 5
  • Goals against: 9
  • Biggest victory: 1-0 vs. Italy in 1966
  • Biggest defeat: 3-0 vs. Soviet Union in 1966
  • Top scorer: Pak Seung-zin (2 goals)
  • Most appearances: Several players (4 matches)
  • Hosted the World Cup: Never

World Cup track record

  • 1930 to 1962 - Did not enter
  • 1966 - Quarter-finals
  • 1970 - Did not enter
  • 1974 - Did not qualify
  • 1978 - Did not enter
  • 1982 to 1994 - Did not qualify
  • 1998 - Did not enter
  • 2002 - Did not enter
  • 2006 - Did not qualify



  • FIFA member since: 1958
  • Team nickname: Chollima

Notable Achievements

  • Asian Youth Champions: 1976, 2006

Legendary Players

  • Pak Doo-ik: Represented his country at the 1966 World Cup, where he scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Italy, one of the biggest uspets in the tournament's rich history.
  • Pak Seung-zin: Scored two goals for North Korea at the 1966 World Cup in England.