Monday, April 19, 2010

North Korea's Team and a Grudge

This is the strangest story of the week.

North Korea, cursed with perhaps the strangest government on the planet, has made the World Cup. It already promised to be a little weird. North Korea is paranoid and potentially violent at any given moment.

And this has a bit to do with that. Paranoia and violence.

To wit: Nobody seems to want the North Koreans around. But it especially true in Zimbabwe, a country neighboring South Africa to the north.

And here is why:

North Korea apparently was involved in training a Zimbabwean military unit that may have been involved in the killing of 20,000 Zimbabwe civilians.

Zimbabwe president for life Robert Mugabe apparently invited in military advisors from North Korea to train a particular unit to carry out reprisals against civilians who were not enthusiastic about him taking over the government, almost 40 years ago.

Some of the tribes loving in the regions where North Korea is recalled as the leaders of a unit that killed so many civilians were talking of demonstrations against the presence of the North Koreans. One of them said the raising of a North Korean flag would be "very provocative."

This won't get better when North Korea goes into South Africa for its three Group G matches. Because South Africa has about 1 million Zimbabwe refugees who have heard bad stories about the North Koreans, as well. And who may be able to demonstrate without having the government attack them.

Why is North Korea doing this? For one, Mugabe runs a police state. Not many nosy reporters having around, and North Korea is comfortable in another police state.

Second, South Africa retains a feisty and independent media, as well as civilians who are likely to organize protests if they think they necessary -- and the presence of the North Koreans might be enough.

Third, two of North Korea's Group G matches are fairly close to Zimbabwe. The first match is at Johannesburg and the third is in Nelspruit, in the northeast of the country. That is, this almost makes sense, logistically.

Go over and read the story. Pretty weird. And that is why North Korea is not some favorite little-guy hero in southern Africa.
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