North Korea Fears Soccer Players May Seek Asylum In South Africa

Zimbabwean government sources said there were strong fears some players and officials from North Korea could take advantage of their stay in South Africa to break free and seek asylum.

North Korea is notorious for denying its citizens basic freedoms and citizens from this reclusive country have a record of defecting and seeking asylum once they step on foreign soil, especially of countries that enjoy democracy and freedom.

Sources this week said Pyongyang was comfortable with security arrangements in Zimbabwe which they felt could make it impossible for players or officials to escape.

“Look, it is very easy for the North Korean players to break away from camp and seek asylum is South Africa than it is here in Zimbabwe,” said an official from the Ministry of Education, Sport, Art and Culture.

The North Korean team will camp in Bulawayo and use Babourfields Stadium as their training venue.

Their visit to Bulawayo has attracted serious opposition from human rights groups who say it evokes memories of the Gukurahundi massacres of the early 1980s.

The Fifth Brigade, which perpetrated the massacres, were trained and armed by the North Korean government.

North Korea does not usually send its sporting teams to train and play in Western Europe because once there, players immediately break away and seek asylum.

They, however, usually train in Russia.

Athletes from countries such as Eretria, Sierra Leone, Cuba, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have in the past defected as soon as they set foot on foreign soil.

During the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne 26 athletes sought asylum in Australia. They include members of teams from the African countries of Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone as well as the south-Asian nation of Bangladesh.