It’s a shame that those fans weren’t actually North Korean. The almost touching displays of North Korean patriotism were in fact put on by Chinese actors, ahem, “volunteers.” Hired by the China Sports Events Management Group and the North Korean Sports Committee, the actors were brought in because few people in North Korea could afford both the airfare and the game ticket, much less obtain a visa to leave the country, and the Chinese team didn’t make it to the tournament. And because in world competitions, “Chinese fans will stand for Asia teams,” China promised North Korea the fans to boost morale.
Oddly, though, the volunteers still told press that they were part of a group of North Korean fans hand-picked by the DPRK government to represent the country, even though China had already admitted twice (here and here) that they were flying actors in. Sure, the whole thing’s a little morally dubious (and impractical. Couldn’t they have cheered on North Korea and stayed Chinese?), but isn’t this a sweet little tale of football camaraderie? Look how it’s bringing nations together!