“You know the relationship between North Korea and Japan, so we have to win with our skills, and we will win.”
This is how an elderly man from the North Korean supporters’ team expressed his confidence in victory on Saturday evening at the Huanglong Sports Center Stadium in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, where the women’s soccer final between North Korea and Japan at the 19th Hangzhou Asian Games was held.
The comment was heard as an indication of North Korean society’s deep-rooted antipathy toward Japan.
An hour and a half before the scheduled 9 p.m. kickoff, a group of about 200 North Korean supporters sat in a corner opposite the main stands on the third floor of the stadium.
With the women’s soccer match being the last event of the day for the North Korean team to compete in a major stadium two days before the Asian Games concludes, they appeared to be going “all out” in support.
The North Korean supporters have gradually grown in size as the Games have progressed, starting with four people spotted at the men’s soccer team’s first group game on March 19.
The cheerleaders took their seats in five and ten rows and began practicing their chants, shouting slogans such as “Win the DPRK” and “Do well DPRK” and banging on instruments.
They even sang “Garira to Mount Paektu,” a song released in 2015 by Moranbong, a North Korean girl group.
Most of the cheerleaders wore white hats and white hooded T-shirts emblazoned with prosthetics, while some wore red T-shirts. Some even wore the Chinese Five Star Red Flag on their T-shirts alongside the flag.
When a reporter asked the reason for the difference in attire, one woman replied, “The white ones and the red ones are both the Chosun team.”
Some of the cheerleaders spoke fluent Chinese to other spectators around them.
Hundreds of North Korean supporters were also seated behind the main stands just before the game. Overall, this was the largest group of North Korean supporters at the Asian Games.
The game then began, with loud cheers filling the stadium at every opportunity for both teams.
The stadium was like a “home ground” for North Korea, showing the Chinese people’s feelings for their “blood brother”.
As if the North Korean cheerleaders and the Chinese crowd were in sync, the chants of “Good job, DPRK” and “Come on” (加油) alternated in time with the beat. Occasionally, Japan’s chances were accompanied by boos.
When Japan scored the first goal in the ninth minute of the first half, the North Korean supporters fell silent for a moment in shock, but continued to cheer as if they would never give up, and the stadium reached its peak when Kim Yong-yong scored the equalizer in the 38th minute.
The hostility of the North Korean supporters toward South Korean reporters was still evident on the day.
One middle-aged man, who appeared to be an escort, gestured for a reporter to get out of the way when the reporter identified himself and asked for an outlook on the game, saying, “Don’t play tricks on comrade. He’s not a comrade.” The cheerleaders largely ignored the reporter’s questions. 파워볼분석